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Zimmerman walks Nats off into first-place tie

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Zimmerman walks Nats off into first-place tie

On Tuesday night in bottom of the 10th inning, with one of the best relievers in baseball on the mound and a chance to close the gap on first place for the first time this season, the Nationals had a rather fortuitous turn of the lineup as they aimed for their 11th comeback win of the year.

Yunel Escobar led off with a walk and behind him awaited the hottest hitter in baseball. The focus of the 37,355 in attendance at Nationals Park closed in on a matchup of titanic lefties.

One the best slugger in the National League at this very moment. The other a towering 6-foot-7 lefty who mixes mid-90s heat with a slider that comes across his body like a tidal wave.

With Bryce Harper and Andrew Miller of the Yankees going at it, however, on deck waiting his turn was one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history. Ryan Zimmerman watched Harper strike out on a 3-2 slider and then proceeded to hand the Nationals a victory with his 10th career walk-off home run.

Zimmerman is only 30 years old, yet he's already only three behind the all-time leader, Jim Thome, who has 13 walk-off homers. Right behind Thome with 12 are guys like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson. The only active players with more than Zimmerman are David Ortiz and Albert Pujols, who each have 11.

That's not bad company for Zimmerman, who for much of his career has battled injuries and at times played with a lot less talent surrounding him than Mantle and Ruth had.

"I'm just lucky to be in that situation that much. It's obviously special, and something that once I'm done, I think I'll look back on and appreciate a lot more," Zimmerman said. "Right now, I'm just happy for the win and be able to do something to help us win games. That's the important thing."

Zimmerman may not be able to appreciate it fully quite yet, but his coaches and teammates sure can.

"Pretty special isn't it? You don't realize things like that until it's pointed out," manager Matt Williams said.

"It just means that he knows what he's doing. He hits to the situation like he did tonight. He got ahead in the count and got a good pitch to hit. He's got power to all fields."

"It's amazing. He's not a real emotional guy. He just doesnt get caught up in the moment and try to do too much," Drew Storen said. "So he just goes up there and has a professional at-bat, no matter what. Obviously, more times than not, it works out pretty well for him. It's a lot of fun to watch."

Zimmerman's first walk-off home run also happened to come against the Yankees, that one on Father's Day of 2006. This homer was a winding line drive to right field that bounced off the foul pole.

"It was real fair at the beginning, and at the very end it started to take a right turn. I knew I hit it good enough, it was just gonna be a matter of whether it stays fair, and I got lucky to hit the pole and sometimes you just get lucky," he said.

Zimmerman raised his right fist in the air as he ran from first to second and was doused with Gatorade at home plate. Then, as part of a new custom for walk-off wins, he was drenched with chocolate sauce by starter Max Scherzer.

This was Zimmerman's first time getting chocolate sauced and he's not sure what to think of it.

"It's alright. That was a pretty aggressive celebration. But that's Max, so it's good," he said.

Everything feels better when you're in first place, or tied for it as the Nationals stand after Tuesday's 8-6 win. After starting the year 7-13, the Nats are 16-4 since. They made up an eight-game division deficit in just 22 days.

"We knew we were gonna play baseball like we were supposed to. There's gonna be times where you don't play good like we did at the beginning of the year, the key is obviously to not have long stretches like that," Zimmerman said.

"When it happens at the beginning of the year, everyone overreacts and puts too much into it. We just kind of stayed the course, kept working hard and doing what we do every day and knew it would turn around."

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Bryce Harper drives in 100th RBI of season

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Bryce Harper drives in 100th RBI of season

Despite an unsuccessful season, Nationals fans have something to celebrate. Bryce Harper has hit his 100th RBI of the season.

100 RBIs is the most-ever for Harper. His previous personal best being 99 in 2015. 

Harper's 100th came off of a sacrifice fly to left field in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Adam Eaton.

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BRING. US. YOUR. 100. EMOJIS.

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Additionally, Monday night's game against the Miami Marlins was the 154th game played for Harper, who appeared in 153 last season.

The Nationals-Marlins series will be the final homestand for the Nats who will end their disappointing season next week in Colorado against the Rockies. 2018 is the first time in three seasons that the Nationals did not clinch at least a playoff berth.

As Harper nears free agency status with next week's season-end, his time in Washington may end but his legacy with the Nationals will live on.

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Nationals end disappointing season with final home series vs. Marlins

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Nationals end disappointing season with final home series vs. Marlins

WASHINGTON -- The disappointing Washington Nationals close out their home schedule with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins beginning Monday night (7:05 p.m. ET).

After dropping three of four to the fourth-place New York Mets over the weekend, third-place Washington (77-77) needs to go 4-2 this weekend to cap a seventh straight winning season.

Miami right-hander Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 2.35) and right-hander Stephen Strasburg (9-7, 3.83) square off in a rematch of a Sept. 18 pairing won by Strasburg and Washington, 4-2. Strasburg allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, while striking out 11 and walking two.

Over his last five starts, Strasburg is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA and 38 strikeouts.

"He's been really good," Nationals manager Dave Martinez told The Washington Post. "He's pitching now. He's mixing all of his pitches in and attacking the strike zone."

Strasburg is 17-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 30 career starts against Miami.

Alcantara lasted just four innings against Washington, allowing three earned runs on six hits and six walks in absorbing his first loss of the season.

"When we talk about young guys, this is what we see," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We see good and then we see some ones that are not as good. Today, the command didn't seem to be there. A lot of misses, counts get bad and a lot of pitches in a short period of time.

"It's something he'll be able to learn from and you've got to continue to work and be consistent with what you do and that's what separates the guys who are going to be really good and the guys who are going to be OK."

Miami finished the home portion of its schedule with a 6-0 win over the Reds Sunday, taking three of four in the weekend series. At 62-93 with one game unlikely to be made up, the Marlins should avoid 100 losses but also won't approach their 77 wins of a year ago.

"No matter what, we knew what we were kind of embarking on this year, with a lot of the changes," Mattingly told mlb.com. "The new direction of the club, under the new ownership. You understand all that. Still, the losses add up, and those are hard to deal with.

"But I've been proud of the guys. I've felt they've continued to play hard and continued to give you the effort, and that's not easy to do when you're taking that many losses on the chin."

Washington is also playing out the string after being eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday. They lost 8-6 to the Mets in Sunday's finale.

Twenty-five-year-old rookie Erick Fedde, the team's first-round pick in the 2014 draft, is among those bidding for a 2019 starting rotation spot. Against the Mets Sunday, he lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs in a no-decision.

In nine starts this season, Fedde has yet to go beyond six innings.

"There are times when I'm like: 'I can pitch at this level, I can be successful and I think I can dominate,'" he told MASN.com. "And then there are times that are like: 'What are you doing out there?' But I think that comes with the learning curve, and I just need to make sure that isn't a very long learning curve."

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