by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer

Thursday afternoon, the Washington Nationals needed a reliable hand to help salvage their three-game series with a strong Philadelphia Phillies team that had pounded them the previous two games.

Ryan Zimmerman, who had missed three consecutive games and didn’t start on Thursday, came up to pinch-hit in the eighth inning. The gold-glove winning third baseman seems to find a way to create some compelling drama in a game, and he once again came through in a clutch moment.

Zimmerman would hit a pinch hit two-run homer and stun the crowd. When all was said and done, his shot gave the team momentum as the Nationals avoided a three-game sweep and defeated the Phillies, 7-5, in front of a sold out crowd at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Before Zimmerman’s big moment, the Nationals were down 4-3, as Adam Dunn hit his first homer of the young season, a solo shot, earlier in the frame off Phillies reliever Danys Baez. After a walk to Ivan Rodriguez, the injured Zimmerman – who was not expected to play in the game – came up in an unusual situation to pinch-hit for reliever Tyler Clippard.

Moments later, he delivered the shot that made the difference.

The Nationals added two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Rodriguez had a two-run single.

Matt Capps came into the game and earned his fourth save of the season.

The burly pitcher went one and two-thirds innings and closed out things for Washington, but he allowed Shane Victorino to go deep with a solo homerun in the ninth, and allowed two men to reach base until getting Jayson Werth to fly out and end the contest.

Tyler Clippard (W, 2-0), who came into the game in the seventh inning, got the win in relief for Washington. Meanwhile, Baez (L, 0-1) took the loss for Philadelphia.

Thursday’s game was notable because Scott Olsen returned to the Nationals big league roster after being assigned to Triple-A Syracuse at the end of Spring Training.

Olsen, in his first start for Washington in 2010, went five and two-thirds innings and allowed four runs on five hits, striking out five and walking three. He would allow a first inning solo home run to Chase Utley – his fifth of the year – but would cruise through the game until the sixth inning.

With the game tied at one in the sixth, Olsen finally ran into trouble. He allowed a leadoff single to Placido Polanco and with two outs, walked both Werth and Raul Ibanez in succession to load the bases. Light-hitting Juan Castro, playing in place of injured Jimmy Rollins, plated two off Olsen to put the Phillies up, 3-1.

Tyler Clippard entered at that point and and issued a free pass to Carlos Ruiz that loaded the bases again, before walking Gregg Dobbs to plate Ibanez.

Washington scored their first run of the game off a Cristian Guzman groundout to tie the contest at one in the third. Their second run came courtesy of Ian Desmond RBI single in the seventh inning.

J.A. Happ, who started the game for the Phillies on the mound, only lasted five and one-third innings and gave up three hits; however, he would walk six.

The Good: Zimmerman’s blast. That moment single-handedly changed the tide of the game for the Nationals. Nice to see him come through in the clutch.

Ivan Rodriguez was 2-for-4 and drove in two. So far, so good for the 38-year old catcher who is hitting .407 on the season.

Adam Dunn: The big slugger finally knocked one out of the park and had two hits. Maybe he’s finding his way now?

Scott Olsen. Yes, the numbers at the end of the day were nothing special for him, but it’s good to see him back from injury. He was effective until the sixth inning until the Philadelphia bats struck; nevertheless, it was a good return to the big leagues for the left-hander.

The Bad: I’ll save the criticism for today. It was a good, inspiring, come-from-behind Curly ‘W’ win.

With a 4-5 record, the Nationals return home on Friday to Nationals Park as they start a three game series with the Milwaukee Brewers.