HOUSTON — It didn't take long for the Washington Nationals to tally their first World Series home run in franchise history.
And who better to hit it?
With the Houston Astros already laying claim to a 2-0 lead, Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate in the top of the second with two outs and one of the best pitchers in baseball on the mound. Gerrit Cole, however, would leave a 96-mile per hour fastball hanging over the center of the plate, which the 35-year-old Zimmerman crushed 413 feet and over the center field wall at Minute Maid Park.
Zimmerman's home run cut Houston's lead in half and proved to be a pivotal first step Washington's 5-4 Game 1 victory. It also served a sentimental moment for the Nationals, who selected Zimmerman with their first draft pick after relocating from Montreal in 2005.
“I’ll be honest, my eyes got a little watery for him," Washington manager Dave Martinez said after the game.
The feeling was mutual for Zimmerman, who is now in his 15th season with the Nationals. Although his resume already included two All-Star appearances and two Silver Slugger awards, it wasn't until Tuesday that he appeared in his first World Series game, ending a drough that tied for the longest in all of baseball.
"The first at-bat, to hit a home run and run around the bases, you're kind of almost floating around the bases," Zimmerman said after the game. "To be able to do that, it's obviously what you work for. It's not only what I think you sacrifice for, but what your family sacrifices for. It's why you play the game, to play on the biggest stage.
"To be able to get some runs off Gerrit, a guy whose been the best pitcher in baseball for the last four months -- he's a special pitcher and we had a good plan tonight and we executed and fortunately for us, he made some mistakes."
That first mistake, however, proved crucial as the Nationals went on to tag Cole for five runs over the course of seven innings. To put that number in perspective, the right-hander had entered Game 1 of the World Series having allowed just a total of two runs all postseason.
"After the homer, everybody thinks, 'We have a chance,'" said Nationals left fielder Juan Soto, who hit a solo home run and 3-run double off of Cole after Zimmerman's homer.
But regardless of where the World Series goes from here and whether or not the Nationals are able to capitalize on their 1-0 series lead, Zimmerman's home run will always stand as one of the team's most memorable moments. From being a fledgling franchise owned by Major League Baseball to a perennial playoff contender that couldn't quite get over the hump to now the biggest World Series underdog in more than a decade, Zimmerman's been there through it all, which is why no one could blame Martinez -- or anyone else -- for shedding a few tears.