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Zim becomes all-time DC home run king

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman never expected his name would be used in the same sentence as Frank Howard's.

Zimmerman wasn't a power hitter growing up but has gotten stronger since reaching the Majors. He showcased that skill by passing Howard for the most home runs in D.C. baseball history during the Nationals' 10-6 loss in Game 1 of a doubleheader with the Rockies. The milestone occurred 13 days after Zimmerman became the franchise's all-time home runs leader.

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WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman never expected his name would be used in the same sentence as Frank Howard's.

Zimmerman wasn't a power hitter growing up but has gotten stronger since reaching the Majors. He showcased that skill by passing Howard for the most home runs in D.C. baseball history during the Nationals' 10-6 loss in Game 1 of a doubleheader with the Rockies. The milestone occurred 13 days after Zimmerman became the franchise's all-time home runs leader.

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Zimmerman's 238th career homer came in the third inning off Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland's 91.2-mph fastball to score three runs and knot the game at 4. The Nationals announced the achievement to the crowd as Zimmerman touched home plate, and fans gave the 32-year-old a standing ovation. Zimmerman popped out of the dugout to wave to those on hand.

"Any time that happens, it's a great feeling," Zimmerman said. "I've been very lucky to play my entire career here. I've grown up here. Myself and the fan base, I think we've grown together. And to be able to share that with them is cool."

Zimmerman has spent 13 years with the Nationals since he was selected as the franchise's first Draft pick in 2005 following its move to Washington.

Howard played with the Washington Senators from 1965-71, notching 44 or more home runs in three seasons. He finished his career tied for the 67th most home runs in Major League history (382). The Senators moved to Texas in 1972, and the Montreal Expos moved to Washington in 2005.

"I've had a chance to meet him a couple of times and obviously respect him a ton and what he did," Zimmerman said of Howard. "He hit a ton more home runs, just not here. But it's a really cool honor, and I'm proud of it."

Zimmerman hit another home run in the sixth inning for his fourth multi-homer game this season and 20th of his career. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound first baseman has 24 homers, nearing his career high of 33, set in 2009.

"He broke the record and topped it one," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Next step I guess is 25. It couldn't happen to a finer person or a finer player. He certainly deserves it."

Zimmerman passed Vladimir Guerrero for the most home runs in Nats/Expos history with his 235th career homer against the Reds on July 17. After hitting .218 last year, Zimmerman entered Sunday slashing .315/.357/.577.

"Ryan Zimmerman -- this guy is something very special," Howard said, in a statement. "I've met him three or four times, and you don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know this guy is the ultimate professional, the pro's pro. Besides his outstanding athletic ability, he carries himself with dignity on and off the field. He has tremendous presence, and he is class personified.

"If he continues putting these kind of numbers up for another six, eight, 10 years, this young man is going to walk into Cooperstown, N.Y., and into Baseball's Hall of Fame. He is the epitome of what organizations look for in their personnel: quiet, unassuming. But the aura about him is one of dignity and class. You want to know how I feel about it? Nobody is happier for him than me. The sky is the limit."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman