WASHINGTON -- All of 21, a big league rookie, Ryan Zimmerman quickly developed a reputation for being calm as can be, never allowing anything to rattle him.
Jammed by a fastball from Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang in the seventh inning Sunday, Zimmerman had one thought as he stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth, his Washington Nationals down by a run: Let's hope he tries throwing that same pitch, because I'm ready for it.
Sure enough, with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera forced into a day off, Zimmerman drove Wang's 107th pitch of the day over the wall in left for a game-winning, two-run homer. Having lifted Washington to a 3-2 victory over New York, his Dad in the stands on Father's Day, Zimmerman morphed into a kid on a sandlot, raising a fist as he rounded first, then tossing off his batting helmet as he rounded third.
Zimmerman jumped into the bouncing crowd of teammates waiting at home plate, celebrating a second consecutive comeback win over the Yankees. He said he'd never done that before, at any level: "No walk-off nothing -- single, anything."
"I looked pretty bad the at-bat before on that same pitch," the third baseman said. "I figured I was going to look for that same pitch first pitch, and if he threw it, try and do some damage with it."
After getting mobbed -- "I made sure I touched home plate," he said -- Zimmerman went to the dugout as the largest home crowd in Nationals history, 45,157, kept cheering. Prodded by a few teammates, Zimmerman eventually stepped out of the dugout for a curtain call and tossed his batting gloves into the stands.
"I was glad to see him show some feelings there," manager Frank Robinson said of the stoic Zimmerman, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's amateur draft.
Zimmerman's 10th homer of the season followed pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson's single off Wang (7-3), trying to throw his first career complete game on a day when the temperature was 89 at the start.
"When the ball came out of my hand," Wang said of his final pitch, "I felt bad."
Yankees manager Joe Torre left his starter in because his beleaguered bullpen worked 12 innings over the preceding three days. Torre said before the game that Rivera wasn't available after pitching in the series' first two games. On Saturday, Rivera took the loss, charged with Washington's final two runs as the Nationals came back from a seven-run deficit.
"I never would second-guess Joe Torre. If it's up to me, I'd be pitching every day," said Rivera, who appeared three days in a row once this season, May 10-12. "That's why he's the manager, and I'm just a player."
Said Zimmerman: "Even he has to rest a little bit, too, sometimes."
Even with their success against him the day before, the Nationals were thrilled that Rivera wasn't on the mound.
"It was great when we didn't see Rivera out there in the ninth," Jose Vidro said. "I said, 'Oh, man. We've got a very good chance now, because the guy was starting to leave pitches up in the zone."'
Vidro nearly got to Wang in the eighth after two Nationals reached via walks. But Vidro's hard liner was caught on the run by left fielder Melky Cabrera.
That, for the moment, preserved New York's 2-1 lead from the top of the eighth, when Alex Rodriguez's double drove in the tiebreaking run off Gary Majewski (3-2).
Rodriguez has been slumping and rejoiced after his hit by pounding his hands together in exaggerated applause while standing at second. He drove the first pitch he saw from Majewski, a 93 mph offering, to left, and Cabrera slid in ahead of the tag on the throw home.
"I'm taking baby steps right now," Rodriguez said. "It's not going to come overnight, but I'm feeling better."
Cabrera was walked leading off the eighth. Majewski then struck out Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi -- both swinging at 94 mph fastballs -- before Rodriguez came through. But Majewski got through the ninth without trouble, then settled into the clubhouse to watch the end of the game on TV.
When Zimmerman's homer cleared the fence, Majewski ran back out to join in the fun.
After a five-game losing streak, including a four-game sweep against Colorado, had them down, the Nationals were feeling pretty good as they set out on a nine-game road trip starting Monday at the Red Sox.
"To go out on the road after two wins like we accomplished the last two ballgames, especially the way we won 'em, I don't know if we need the plane today to go to Boston," Robinson said. "We could fly over there without a jet."
- The sellout crowd was the highest single-game attendance for a baseball game in the history of RFK Stadium (a 1962 doubleheader drew more spectators).
- Jeter stole third in the first inning when the Nationals had no one near the bag because of an extreme infield shift with Giambi at the plate.
- Yankees 2B Robinson Cano went 0-for-4, ending his career-best hitting streak at 15 games.