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Washington (1-0) «200000001341

Zimmerman caps Nationals Park opening with walk-off shot in ninth

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman raised a fist when he rounded first, then tossed away his helmet as he approached the plate and the mass of teammates waiting to celebrate his game-ending home run.

The kid sure knows how to throw a housewarming party.

Zimmerman's tiebreaking solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday night gave the Washington Nationals a 3-2 victory against the Atlanta Braves in the first regular-season game at $611 million Nationals Park.

"You can't really write up a script better than that," Zimmerman said. "It turned out perfect."

Braves pitchers had retired 24 consecutive Nationals batters before Zimmerman came through with the hosts' fourth hit of the game -- and first since the first inning. It came on a 1-0 sinker from Peter Moylan (0-1).

"He's talented, and he's mature beyond his age," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "And he just does it. He's special."

With the dome of the U.S. Capitol lit up against the black night sky beyond left field, and the Washington Monument visible from patches of the upper deck, the new stadium provided a picturesque setting for the sort of late-game magic Zimmerman is becoming accustomed to.

Already the face of the franchise after two full seasons, he has four game-ending home runs. And this one just happened to land in a section of seats behind a "Welcome Home" sign on the green-padded wall.

"It's nice to be that guy that they want up there," he said. "You take pride in that."

He certainly showed zero jitters up at the plate. A few hours earlier, meeting President Bush? Now that's a different story.

"I was nervous at first," Zimmerman said. "I didn't know what to say to him."

Unlike Zimmerman, Bush drew a fugue of cheers and jeers when he came out to throw the ceremonial first pitch to Acta. It was part of a prelude of pomp and circumstance that was clearly topped by how the evening ended.

Nick Johnson delivered an RBI double in his first at-bat in more than 18 months, Odalis Perez matched Tim Hudson, and Jon Rauch (1-0) earned the victory after blowing a save in the top of the ninth.

All in all, it sent the paid crowd of 39,389 heading away with even more to smile about than the gleaming white-stone-and-glass ballpark. The Nationals had their first victory in a season opener in four tries since moving to the U.S. capital from Montreal.

Zimmerman was larger than life as he rounded the bases, then came out of the dugout for a curtain call -- it all was shown on the 4,500-plus square foot high-definition video board above right-center, the most immediately noticeable perk of the new digs. It's about three times larger than the scoreboard at creaky, leaky RFK, a remnant from the 1960s that was the Nationals' home from 2005-07.

"We've waited for so long for a place that can be our own," Zimmerman said. "There are just too many people on this team that are tired of being mediocre."

Even the Braves were impressed by the place.

Chipper Jones, whose home run off Perez in the fourth landed in almost the same spot as Zimmerman's drive, called the park "a gem." Braves manager Bobby Cox thought it was "beautiful."

They didn't feel quite the same about the result, of course.

The Nationals were one out from the victory, ahead 2-1 in the ninth. But Rauch was pressed into closing duty because Chad Cordero has right shoulder tendinitis, and the tying run scored on a passed ball charged to Paul Lo Duca, signed during the offseason as a free agent.

It was a couple of holdovers who drove in Washington's runs, both in the first inning. Johnson, who missed all of 2007 with a broken leg, provided an RBI double, sliding into second as if he had never been away. Johnson then slid again, as if for emphasis, when he scored on Austin Kearns' single.

After that, Hudson was perfect. He retired his final 19 batters and departed after allowing three hits over seven innings.

Perhaps surprisingly, Perez was Hudson's equal. A left-hander signed in mid-February to a minor league deal, Perez gave up one run in five innings.

The Braves boasted their own, more modest, debut Sunday: alternate road uniforms. The navy blue caps with a white "A," and navy jerseys with a white, script "Atlanta" on the chest represent the first change to the team's away getup since 1987.

Fans arrived as early as 6 a.m. to buy $5 upper-deck tickets, and there were no apparent transportation problems, with about 50 buses lined up for the free, 10-minute shuttle service from parking lots at RFK.

To a man, Nationals players have said they haven't had time to learn all of the quirks of their new digs, yet right fielder Kearns contributed a nice play in the second inning, turning Brian McCann's single into an out at second. Kearns perfectly played the carom off the bullpen wall, turned and made a throw to second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who relayed the ball to shortstop Cristian Guzman, who tagged out McCann.

The next inning, the Braves collected their second hit of the season -- and followed it up with their second baserunning gaffe of the season. This time, it was Kelly Johnson who singled to center, then was caught stealing.

What everyone will remember, though, is Zimmerman's home run.

"The kid's incredible," Rauch said.

Notes

  • The Nationals put LF Elijah Dukes (right hamstring) on the DL after the game.
  • After years of wearing "C. Jones" on the back of his Braves jersey -- because Andruw Jones, now with the Dodgers, was a teammate -- Chipper Jones was identified Sunday simply as "Jones."
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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President George W. Bush begins the festivities with the ceremonial first pitch.  (Getty Images)
President George W. Bush begins the festivities with the ceremonial first pitch. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Washington

R. Zimmerman
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
Atlanta

C. Jones
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Atlanta Braves
Kelly Johnson, 2B4010012 .250
Yunel Escobar, SS3000101 .000
Chipper Jones, 3B4111011 .250
Mark Teixeira, 1B4010011 .250
    Martin Prado, PR-1B0100000 .000
Jeff Francoeur, RF4010001 .250
Brian McCann, C4010001 .250
Matt Diaz, LF3000000 .000
Mark Kotsay, CF3000001 .000
Tim Hudson, P1000000 .000
   a- Brayan Pena, PH0000100 .000
    Gregor Blanco, PR0000000 .000
    Will Ohman, P0000000 .000
    Peter Moylan, P0000000 .000
Totals3025123  
a-walked for Hudson in the 8th
Batting
2B - Mark Teixeira (1, Rauch)
HR - Chipper Jones (1, O. Perez)
SH - Tim Hudson (1)
RBI - Chipper Jones (1)
CS - Kelly Johnson (1, 2nd base by O. Perez/Lo Duca)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
E - Tim Hudson (1, Throwing)
Atlanta Braves
Tim Hudson 7322030 2.57
Will Ohman 0.1000000 0.00
Peter Moylan (L,0-1) 1.1111021 6.75
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Hudson 78-50, Will Ohman 6-4, Peter Moylan 14-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Hudson 12-6, Will Ohman 1-0, Peter Moylan 2-0
Batters Faced - Tim Hudson 24, Will Ohman 1, Peter Moylan 5
Washington Nationals
Cristian Guzman, SS4110010 .250
Lastings Milledge, CF4000011 .000
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B4111011 .250
Nick Johnson, 1B3111000 .333
Austin Kearns, RF3011000 .333
Paul Lo Duca, C3000001 .000
Elijah Dukes, LF2000000 .000
    Willie Harris, LF1000000 .000
Ronnie Belliard, 2B3000000 .000
Odalis Perez, P1000010 .000
   a- Rob Mackowiak, PH1000000 .000
    Saul Rivera, P0000000 .000
    Ray King, P0000000 .000
    Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
   b- Felipe Lopez, PH1000010 .000
    Jon Rauch, P0000000 .000
Totals3034305  
a-grounded out for O. Perez in the 5th
b-struck out for Ayala in the 8th
Batting
2B - Nick Johnson (1, Hudson)
HR - Ryan Zimmerman (1, Moylan)
RBI - Ryan Zimmerman (1), Nick Johnson (1), Austin Kearns (1)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Zimmerman (1), Nick Johnson (1), Austin Kearns (1)
Team LOB - 1
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Austin Kearns 1
PB - Paul Lo Duca (1)
E - Cristian Guzman (1, Misplayed grounder)
Washington Nationals
Odalis Perez 5411121 1.80
Saul Rivera (H,1) 2000010 0.00
Ray King (H,1) 0.2000100 0.00
Luis Ayala (H,1) 0.1000000 0.00
Jon Rauch (BS,1; W,1-0) 1110000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Odalis Perez 70-43, Saul Rivera 22-13, Ray King 12-6, Jon Rauch 12-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Odalis Perez 7-5, Saul Rivera 2-3, Luis Ayala 1-0, Jon Rauch 1-2
Batters Faced - Odalis Perez 19, Saul Rivera 6, Ray King 3, Luis Ayala 1, Jon Rauch 4
Game Information
Attendance - 39389
Game Time - 2:22
Temperature - 49
Umpires - Home - Mike Reilly, First Base - Bob Davidson, Second Base - Alfonso Marquez, Third Base - Andy Fletcher