Former 'Hoos savor first World Series trip with Nationals

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Ryan Zimmerman has been along for the ride with the Washington Nationals virtually since the beginning.

The No. 4 overall selection out of Virginia in the 2005 MLB Draft, Zimmerman was the first draft pick in Nationals history after the franchise moved from Montreal. A few months later he made his Major League debut, and has been in the big leagues ever since.

On Tuesday night, Zimmerman and the Nationals completed a four-game NLCS sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 7-4 win. That means the franchise's all-time leader in more than a half-dozen stats -- including hits, home runs, RBI and games played -- will be part of the first Washington Nationals team to play in a World Series.

"What a great opportunity," Zimmerman told WTKR afterward. "You just play the game hard, and I was taught by some of the guys back home how to play the game the right way. You respect the game, and ultimately it respects you back."

Zimmerman is hitting .290 with a home run and five RBI in 31 at-bats for the Nationals this postseason. He went 0-for-4 with a run scored in Tuesday's pennant-clinching win.

The other former UVA player on the Nats' roster, left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, gave up one hit and struck out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen Tuesday night.

"This team's been through a lot. I know every team says that this time of year, but you guys know the story," Doolittle told WTKR on the field at Nationals Park afterward. "This team stuck together through some really dark times early in the season, and we really believed in each other when not a lot of people were giving us much of a chance."

Doolittle was referring to the Nationals' slow start to the season. The team woke up on May a dozen games below .500 (19-31) and in fourth place in the NL East. Washington finished the regular season in second place in the division with a 93-69 record.

After beating the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card game, the Nationals rallied from a 2-1 hole to beat the Dodgers in five games in the Division Series, then never trailed at any point during the Championship Series sweep of the Cardinals.

"Baseball tests you. It definitely tested us this year and we, we've passed so far," Zimmerman said. "We've got a little ways to go, but what a turnaround."

Now the Nationals await either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series, with Game 1 scheduled for next Tuesday at the ALCS winner's ballpark. Houston leads that series 2-1, with Wednesday's Game 4 rained out and rescheduled for Thursday.

"We don't want to be done," Doolittle said. "This is awesome. We're definitely going to enjoy this tonight, but it's just amazing."