March 31, 2008 / 3:09 AM / 12 years ago

Walk-off homer by Ryan Zimmerman lifts Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Nationals edged the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in the stateside season-opener on Sunday, allowing the league, fans and players to forget, at least temporarily, the sport’s scandal-scarred winter.

Washington Nationals players mob teammate Ryan Zimmerman (2nd L) after he hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in an Opening Day Major League Baseball game between the Nationals and the Atlanta Braves in Washington March 30, 2008. The game is the first regular-season game at the new Nationals Park. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Ryan Zimmerman belted a two-out solo home run into the left field stands in the bottom of the ninth to give the Nationals the dramatic triumph.

Right-hander Peter Moylan took the loss for the Braves after serving up Zimmerman’s game-winner. Until Zimmerman’s hit, the fourth walk-off homer of his career, the Braves had retired 24 straight Nationals.

“It was a fast ball up and I put a good swing on it,” said Zimmerman. “I’ve never hit the ball out of the infield against that guy so I was just trying to get a base hit.

“I knew I hit it well but I didn’t know if it was going to be high enough. I thought it might hit off the wall. I was talking to it a little bit on the way to first.”

President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch to a smattering of cheers and jeers from the sold-out crowd of more than 39,000 at the Nationals’ new $611 million ballpark on the banks of the Anacostia River.

Atlanta was down to its last out in the top of the ninth before tying the score at 2-2 when Mark Teixeria scored from third on a passed ball by Washington catcher Paul Lo Duca.

But Zimmerman’s heroics gave Washington a win in its home opener for the first time since baseball returned to Washington in 2005 after a 34-year absence.

“It was a great way to win it, with a great guy up, a franchise player,” said Nationals manager Manny Acta. “I didn’t want to see the victory escape in the ninth.

“I couldn’t have written a script any better.”


Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters during the game baseball was still working on a solution to the problem of drugs in sport.

“We have the toughest testing program in American sports, we’re tightening it even more,” he said.

“We’ve hired somebody independently who’s made a lot of recommendations... (But) I don’t delude myself for one second (the job is finished).”

Former senator George Mitchell released a baseball-commissioned report last December detailing nearly 100 players he believed used performance-enhancing drugs.

The ensuing months have been rife with admissions, denials, finger-pointing and congressional hearings — all of which have served to divert the spotlight from the season’s opening.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Washington delighted the home crowd by scoring two runs in the first off starter Tim Hudson on a run-scoring double by Nick Johnson and an RBI single by Austin Kearns.

Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones trimmed the lead to 2-1 with a fourth-inning solo home run to left after Nationals starter Odalis Perez hung a fast-ball out over the plate.

Baseball’s regular season started last week in Japan when the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics split a pair of games.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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