Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman have joked about their ages. Both are 35 and play in a league that’s always looking for the next young star. They’re teammates with players like Juan Soto, who continues to set MLB records for players age 20 and younger.
“We’re a bunch of viejos,” Scherzer told reporters on Monday night, using the Spanish word for old. “Old guys can still do it.”
“Yeah, nice way to say veterans,” added Zimmerman to laughs.
Earlier in the night, the “olds” came up big in the Nats’ 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Zimmerman, who has been with the Nationals since being drafted in 2005, hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to open up the game. Scherzer threw 109 pitches in seven innings and struck out seven.
They both helped the Nats reach a decisive Game 5 of the best-of-five series that will be played in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
“He’s the face of the franchise. He’s been here the whole time,” Scherzer said about Zimmerman after the game. “He’s given everything to this organization, from the beginning to end, seeing through the good times, bad times, and in good times. And we just believe we have the mojo and that we can win. We just believe in this clubhouse, what we have here, what we’ve built here. We’ve talked about it. We just have the ‘it’ factor. We just know we have 25 guys that are going to lay it on the line every single time for each other. It’s hard to replicate.”
The game started with Scherzer giving up a solo home run in first inning to Justin Turner. And even though it was potentially the last game of the season for the Nats, rows of empty seats lined the upper deck at Nationals Park. Tickets for the elimination game were selling for as low as $20 on secondary markets like StubHub.
Fans on Twitter blamed the empty seats on Metro delays, while others said that rain in the forecast kept them away.
But after a slow start, the Nats, led by the veteran players, gave the announced crowd of 36,847 plenty of reason to cheer. In the third inning, Dodgers ace Rich Hill loaded the bases as Anthony Rendon approached the plate. As they have all season, the fans showered Rendon with “MVP” chants.
Michael A. Taylor scored on a sacrifice fly from Rendon, and the Dodgers pulled Hill after he walked Soto.
“You always want to try to have a lead, but guys step up,” said Howie Kendrick, who is another veteran on the team at 36. “It’s been a different guy all year. A lot of the same guys here and there, but we can rely on everybody. Every guy on this roster is important to us and everybody has a role. And we all understand that and we just try to do our job.”
Zimmerman’s home run off of relief pitcher Pedro Báez in the fifth inning soared past the outstretched glove of the Dodgerscenter fielder Cody Bellinger and provided the longest-tenured Nats player another highlight reel moment. He rounded the bases and ran to the dugouts to high-fives before Gerardo Parra leaped into his arms.
The Nat led 5-1 and the fans could feel the momentum shift.
“It’s hard to explain that kind of stuff,” Zimmerman said of his home run. “That’s why sports are special, you can’t replicate it.”
At the bottom of the sixth inning, Trea Turner scored after another Rendon sacrifice fly to add to the Nats’ lead. Scherzer would return to the mound and let out a guttural roar when he struck out Chris Taylor and got Joc Pederson to ground out to end the inning after loading the bases.
“He was at his wits’ end right there,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Veteran guy, big moment, comes through.”
Fans started chanting, “beat LA!” in the eighth inning about the team that finished with a National League best 106 wins during the regular season. Daniel Hudson, another “old” at 32, closed out the game in the ninth inning as fireworks went off at Nats Park for the second time in a week. The viejos had done it again.