For all the attention the “Take Back the Park” initiative garnered over the last few days, it really did just come down to baseball Friday night. In front of a mostly pro-home team crowd, the Washington Nationals defeated a team that has tormented them on the field more than their fans have tormented the Nats Park faithful, knocking off the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3, on pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos’ two out single in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Dating back to last season, the Nats have won their last six games against the Phillies, former bullies of the National League East. Friday’s victory moves the Nats first place record to 17-9 and drops the fourth place Phils to 13-14.
The 11th inning rally started with two outs against Phillies reliever Michael Schwimmer, who was into his third inning of work. Schwimmer got Tyler Moore and Ian Desmond to fly out, but Steve Lombardozzi singled up the middle to spark the comeback. Bryce Harper got behind in the count 0-2, but then looked at a fastball up, then watched three straight sliders break out of the zone for the 19-year old’s third walk of the game.
Jayson Werth was equally selective, as he also ignored a series of sliders that were out of the strike zone, and his base on balls loaded the bases for the last man on Davey Johnson’s bench, last night’s backup catcher.
Ramos fell behind 0-2 as well. He saw a slider in the dirt from Schwimmer but laid off, then spoiled a good fastball and another slider. Ramos had to figure another slider was coming, and when Schwimmer hung the last one, Ramos made him pay, driving the ball up the middle to score Lombardozzi and deliver the extra-inning affair to the home side.
A little lost in the excitement of the comeback and extra innings was the fact this was another Stephen Strasburg start. The big righty was perfect through the first three innings, but then ran into some trouble — at least, what constitutes trouble for him. Hunter Pence hit a two-run home run in the fourth off a Strasburg curveball to put the Nats behind 2-0.
Then in the fifth, Carlos Ruiz crushed a 0-1 96-MPH fastball into the stands in right center to make it 3-0. Strasburg settled down for a 1-2-3 sixth inning, but after 76 pitches and trailing, Johnson pinch-hit for his starter in the bottom of the inning.
All told, Strasburg gave up just three hits and a walk, and struck out four, in his six innings. Unfortunately, two of the three hits were homers, the first he’s given up since Aug. 15, 2010, when now-teammate Adam LaRoche took him deep as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Nats picked up solo runs in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings to force extras. Chad Tracy hit his first homer of the year, Jesus Flores plated Danny Espinosa (2-for-3, walk) with a sacrifice fly, and then doubled home Chad Tracy to knot the game in the eighth.
THE GOOD: The bullpen. Five innings of shutout relief from five different pitchers, allowing just three hits and one walk, striking out six.
Also, four different nats had multi-hit games: Lombardozzi (3-for-6), Tracy (2-for-5), Espinosa (2-for-3) and Ankiel (3-for-4).
THE BAD: The fact the Nats stranded 14 runners is a good and bad thing. Good that the bats finally got hot a little bit, producing 14 hits and benefitting from seven walks. But bad that they still arent’ getting much power out of their lineup. It’s tough to score runs when you’ve got to string singles together. But if they keep putting runners on, eventually they’re gonna score. it just might take 11 innings.
“Actually, at this point I really like it, because we’re threatening,” Johnson said. “A lot of times this year we’ve been awful quiet with the bats. I knew it’s coming, and it was nice to see quality at-bats from some guys that haven’t been doing it.”
THE UGLY: Jayson Werth struggled, going 0-for-5.
THE STATS: 14 hits, 7 walks, 5 Ks. 4-for-13 with RISP, 14 LOB, 2 GIDP. E: Lombardozzi (1), Gorzelanny (1), Stammen (1).
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 1:05 against the Phillies. Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.82) hosts Vance Worley (2-1, 1.97).