WASHINGTON – Ryan Zimmerman has now done it eight times, and it never gets old.
Watch the ball sail out of the park. Slap hands with the first base coach. Slap hands with the third base coach. Toss the helmet and jump into the pile of teammates waiting at home plate.
For the eighth time in his seven-year big league career, the Washington Nationals third baseman ended the game with a home run. This time, it was a grand slam, hit with a full count and two outs in the bottom of the ninth against one of the best closers in the league.
Zimmerman's line drive over the left field wall against Ryan Madson capped a six-run ninth Friday night, giving the Nationals an 8-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
"It's the ultimate thing," said Zimmerman, who also got a Gatorade shower and whipped cream in the face, "because when you come around third, your teammates are waiting there."
The Nationals were trailing 4-2 entering the ninth, but they sent eight men to the plate against Madson (3-2), who had previously blown only one save this season and hadn't allowed six runs in a game since becoming exclusively a relief pitcher in 2007. Zimmerman was 8 for 22 in his career with no homers and four RBIs against the Phillies' formidable closer, including 0 for 3 this year.
That RBI total doubled in a hurry. The slam was Zimmerman's third in his career, and the second one to end a game.
"Just trying to get it out of the infield," Zimmerman said. "I guess you could say he's dominated me throughout the whole time. It's one of those at bats where I don't know really how it happened, but I guess it happened.
"The pressure's on him, man. It's not on me. I'm, like, 0-for-whateaver against him — I'm supposed to get out," he added. "The way I've always been taught is the pressure's on the pitcher. It keeps you calm, and the key thing is not trying to do too much."
Jayson Werth, whose locker is next to Zimmerman's had an even simpler explanation for his teammate's knack for big hits.
"He's good. He wakes up every morning, and he's good," Werth said. "That's all you need to know."
Werth played a key role in the rally, opening the inning by hanging on with foul ball after foul ball until he singled to left on Madson's 11th pitch. Danny Espinosa hit a flare to center for a single, and Jonny Gomes singled to left to drive home Werth. Wilson Ramos bunted to put runners on second and third, and pinch-hitter Jesus Flores was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Ian Desmond singled to right to score Espinosa. With the bases still loaded, Rick Ankiel struck out swinging, leaving Zimmerman to finish things off. With no room on the bases, Madson had little choice but to throw his fastball with the full count.
"Here it is, and if you hit it, you hit it," Madson said. "Most times when you challenge a guy like that, he's going to get a hit, and he did that time. So, I tip my cap to him. He's a great hitter."
Todd Coffey (4-1) pitched the top of the ninth to get the win for the Nationals, who handed the Phillies only their second loss in the last 13 road games.
Until the last few minutes, the Phillies were in firm control. Kyle Kendrick, getting an unexpected start after a long rain delay, allowed two runs over six innings.
The teams started by playing all of 5 minutes of baseball with a background of thunder and lightning before a massive storm hit — it was an interesting choice for the officials to start the game when they did.
"I was surprised they started the game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "You could tell it was going to rain, I guess. I could. I'm not a weatherman."
After a delay of 2 hours, 22 minutes, scheduled starter Roy Oswalt was scratched in favor of Kendrick, who had been slated to pitch Saturday. In the fluky world of baseball, Kendrick was credited with a game starting as a pitcher but not as a batter, while Oswalt started as a batter but not as a pitcher — even though he didn't perform either task.
Oswalt will now start Saturday.
Washington starter Livan Hernandez was pitching to his fourth batter when everyone but the grounds crew headed for cover, and he stayed in the game when play resumed. The Phillies hit him hard in a four-run third, sending nine men to the plate and getting a season-high seven hits in an inning.
NOTES: Zimmerman reached base for his 25th straight game. ... Phillies CF Shane Victorino served the second game of his two-game suspension for his part in a benches-clearing brawl at San Francisco on Aug. 5. ... Howard returned after missing one game with a strained hand muscle. Ruiz was back after sitting out two games with a groin injury. ... Washington's Michael Morse didn't start because of swelling in his left elbow, but he flew out to left as a pinch hitter in the eighth and stayed in the game at first base. ... Nationals' prospect Bryce Harper was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He was hurt in Double-A Harrisburg's win at Akron on Thursday. Johnson said Harper will probably miss the rest of the minor league season.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP