No matter how many times Ryan Zimmerman does it, it never gets old.
Watch the ball sail out of the park. Slap hands with the first base coach. Slap hands with the third base coach. Toss the helmet and jump into the pile of teammates waiting at home plate.
For the eighth time in his seven-year big league career, the Washington Nationals' third baseman ended the game with a home run. This time, it was a grand slam, hit with a full count and two outs against one of the best closers in the league.
Zimmerman's line drive over the left field wall against Ryan Madson capped a six-run ninth Friday night, giving the Nationals an 8-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
"It's the ultimate thing," said Zimmerman, who also got a Gatorade shower and whipped cream in the face, "because when you come around third, your teammates are waiting there."
The Nationals were trailing 4-2 entering the ninth, but they sent eight men to the plate against Madson (3-2), who had previously blown only one save this season and hadn't allowed six runs in a game since becoming exclusively a relief pitcher in 2007. Zimmerman was 8 for 22 in his career with no homers and four RBIs against the Phillies' formidable closer, including 0 for 3 this year.
That RBI total doubled in a hurry. The slam was Zimmerman's third in his career, and the second one to end a game.
"Just trying to get it out of the infield," Zimmerman said. "I guess you could say he's dominated me throughout the whole time. It's one of those at bats where I don't know really how it happened, but I guess it happened.
"The pressure's on him, man. It's not on me. I'm, like, 0-for-whatever against him — I'm supposed to get out," he added. "The way I've always been taught is the pressure's on the pitcher. It keeps you calm, and the key thing is not trying to do too much."
Jayson Werth played a key role in the rally, opening the inning by hanging on with foul ball after foul ball until he singled to left on Madson's 11th pitch. Danny Espinosa hit a flare to centre for a single, and Jonny Gomes singled to left to drive home Werth. Wilson Ramos bunted to put runners on second and third, and pinch-hitter Jesus Flores was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Ian Desmond singled to right to score Espinosa. With the bases still loaded, Rick Ankiel struck out swinging, leaving Zimmerman to finish things off. With no room on the bases, Madson had little choice but to throw his fastball with the full count.
Elsewhere in the National League it was: Milwaukee 6 N.Y. Mets 1; Atlanta 4 Arizona 2; Houston 6 San Francisco 0; Chicago Cubs 5 St. Louis 4, (10 innings); Cincinnati 11 Pittsburgh 8; L.A. Dodgers 8 Colorado 2 and San Diego 4 Florida 3.
At Washington, D.C., Todd Coffey (4-1) pitched the top of the ninth to get the win for the Nationals, who handed the Phillies only their second loss in the last 13 road games.
Until the last few minutes, the Phillies were in firm control. Kyle Kendrick, getting an unexpected start after a long rain delay, allowed two runs over six innings.
The teams started by playing all of five minutes of baseball with a background of thunder and lightning before a massive storm hit — it was an interesting choice for the officials to start the game when they did.
After a delay of two hours 22 minutes, scheduled starter Roy Oswalt was scratched in favour of Kendrick, who had been slated to pitch Saturday. In the fluky world of baseball, Kendrick was credited with a game starting as a pitcher but not as a batter, while Oswalt started as a batter but not as a pitcher — even though he didn't perform either task.
Washington starter Livan Hernandez was pitching to his fourth batter when everyone but the grounds crew headed for cover, and he stayed in the game when play resumed. The Phillies hit him hard in a four-run third, sending nine men to the plate and getting a season-high seven hits in an inning.
Brewers 6 Mets 1
At New York, Prince Fielder hit two RBI singles and streaking Milwaukee waited out a rain delay of nearly three hours before beating New York.
Braves 4 Diamondbacks 2
At Atlanta, Derek Lowe combined with four relievers on a six-hitter and Atlanta hit three homers in the matchup of NL playoff contenders.
Astros 6 Giants 0
At Houston, Wandy Rodriguez pitched eight innings and had a two-run single to lead Houston. The Astros were leading 2-0 in the sixth when Carlos Corporan hit an RBI single with two outs and Rodriguez followed with a long single down the right field line on the first pitch from Ryan Vogelsong.
Cubs 5 Cardinals 4, 10 innings
At Chicago, Tyler Colvin's RBI single in the bottom of the 10th off Octavio Dotel lifted Chicago to the victory. Geovany Soto led off the inning with a single off Dotel, advanced to second on Marlon Byrd's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Colvin's hit to centre field just hours after the Cubs fired general manager Jim Hendry.
Reds 11 Pirates 8
At Pittsburgh, Toronto's Joey Votto hit his 21st homer of the season and later scored the game-winning run in the top of the ninth to lead Cincinnati.
Dodgers 8 Rockies 2
At Denver, Hiroki Kuroda pitched six strong innings for his first career win against Colorado, and Rod Barajas and Tony Gwynn hit home runs for Los Angeles.
Padres 4 Marlins 3