Ryan Zimmerman came off the injured list Sunday and welcomed himself back to the Washington Nationals lineup in a powerful way.
Zimmerman blasted a 437-foot, two-run home run in the sixth inning to help the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 9-3 to finish off a sweep of their last-place divisional foes.
The Nationals (77-58) continued to hold the first wild-card position in the National League playoff race, 4½ games ahead of the Chicago Cubs.
Zimmerman, closer Sean Doolittle and pitchers Austin Voth and Jeremy Hellickson were returned from their rehab assignments and activated from the injured list Sunday as MLB rosters expanded from 25 players to 40 for September.
“Felt good to be out there,” Zimmerman said. “You know, I’ve hit home runs before, so it’s not a huge deal, but being back out there with the guys and just being part of the game, it was a lot of fun.”
Doolittle entered in the ninth inning and coaxed three straight batters into flying out. Doolittle was on the IL since Aug. 18 with right knee tendinitis, a day after blowing a save in a loss to Milwaukee.
Zimmerman’s and Doolitte’s returns didn’t overshadow the rest of the team’s all-around strong performance.
Patrick Corbin (11-6) fanned eight batters and surpassed 200 strikeouts for the year, making Washington the first National League team in 50 years to have three pitchers reach 200 in the same season.
Juan Soto finished 3-4 with two doubles and his 31st home run of the year, one day after he and Anthony Rendon reached 30 homers for the year in back-to-back at-bats.
And after homering twice the night before, it was another typical day at work for Rendon, who hit his 32nd dinger of the year and set a Nationals single-season record with 111 RBI.
“It’s funny because they’re punch-for-punch now in the home runs, you know,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Every time one of them hits a home run, the other guy tries to match it, so it’s kind of fun. But bar anything else, when you talk to them, they just want to win.”
Rendon finished 2-for-3 and moved into first place in the majors in RBI, along with his majors-best .337 batting average, as fans’ chants of “M-V-P” grew louder.
In the sixth, Yan Gomes followed Zimmerman’s home run with a bullet to the left field foul pole that was upheld as fair after a crew chief review.
Zimmerman finished 1-3 with his home run and a walk. He had missed 36 games with a recurring bout of plantar fasciitis in his right foot and had not played for Washington since July 21.
Martinez said Zimmerman “reintroduced” himself to the manager Sunday, and the joke around the clubhouse was that the 34-year-old vet was a September call-up.
“Zim’s a consummate professional. He gets it,” Martinez said before the game. “I told him, ‘You’re going to play against some lefties. You’re gonna come off the bench.’ His defense is still really good … He understands that we have other guys that are having an unbelievable year, and he gets it. He just wants to be part of it, and I want him to be part of it.”
But Martinez also reminded reporters of Zimmerman’s ability to “catch fire” — and after Sunday, it could be a reason for Washington to use more of him down the stretch.
The Nationals next welcome the New York Mets back to town for a three-game set, which includes 1:05 p.m. starts Monday and Wednesday. Washington will start Joe Ross Monday, with Max Scherzer scheduled for Tuesday.