HOUSTON (AP) — Ryan Zimmerman has come full circle, with a trot around the bases for the Washington Nationals.
The first amateur player ever drafted by the Nationals in 2005, and the only person to wear their jersey during all 15 seasons the team has existed, Zimmerman hit their first World Series home run.
"First at-bat, to hit a home run and run around the bases, you're kind of almost floating around the bases," Zimmerman said. "To be able to do that is obviously what you work for. Not only you sacrifice for, but I think what your family sacrifices for. That's why you play the game, to play on the biggest stage."
With his deep blast to center field with two outs in the second inning Tuesday night — Houston Astros starter Gerrit Cole immediately threw his right arm up knowing the ball was long gone — the 35-year-old Zimmerman also scored the team's first-ever run in the World Series.
"I'll be honest with you, my eyes got a little watery for him," manager Dave Martinez said. "He waited a long time to be in this position, and for him to hit that first home run and put us on the board was awesome."
Said reliever Tanner Rainey: "He is Mr. National."
Washington still trailed after Zimmerman homered but 20-year-old Juan Soto tied the game with an impressive homer of his own leading off the fourth and added a two-run double an inning later and the Nationals held on for a 5-4 victory.
The only players older than Zimmerman to homer in their first World Series plate appearances were a 38-year-old Barry Bonds in 2002 and Bob Watson in 1981, when he was also 35 but still nearly six months older than Zimmerman is now.
Washington became the first team ever with a homer by a player 35 or older and a player 20 or younger in the same World Series game.
Even after being limited to only 52 games in the regular season — his lowest for a full year — and hitting only .257 with six homers, Zimmerman has hit .286 (10 of 35) with two homers and six RBIs in the postseason.
The Astros had gone ahead with two runs in the first inning off Max Scherzer before Zimmerman's homer, which MLB stats estimated at 413 feet, off the Houston right-hander who lost for the first time in five months after winning 19 decisions in a row.
"When he hit the homer against a guy like that, everybody thinks we've got a chance now," Soto said.
Zimmerman holds Expos-Nationals franchise career records for hits, doubles, total bases, homers and RBIs.
"He's been here for so long, we're all just ecstatic to see him go out there and have this type of postseason and continue to contribute," Scherzer said. "It's all the old guys. All the old guys are stepping up and still doing it."
Zimmerman played games for the Nationals in dilapidated RFK Stadium and had the game-ending homer in the first game played at the Nationals' new stadium when it opened in 2008 — and where Game 3 of this World Series will be played Friday night.
That was one of his 11 career walk-off shots, tied for the second-most in NL history behind Stan Musial's record. All part of Zimmerman's legacy.
Now Zimmerman will always lay claim to the first big blast in the Nationals' first-ever win in the Fall Classic.
"The one guy you think of is Ryan Zimmerman," said Patrick Corbin, the Nationals starter who threw a scoreless inning in relief. "He's been here forever and for him to come up with a huge hit in his first-ever World Series at-bat has got to feel pretty good for him."