"They're gonna have to sit down." Davey Johnson on what Philllies fans standing for the final out had to do after Ian Desmond's home run.
Many times this season, the Washington Nationals have been burned by the youthful aggressiveness of their middle infield tandem. Sunday, before another crowd filled with out-town fans, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa delivered on the talent that the Nats see in them, both connecting on solo home runs to tie the game, Espinosa first in the sixth inning, then Desmond in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth, down to his -- and the team's -- last strike.
Then, in the tenth inning, the Nats rallied against former closer Brad Lidge, scoring the winning run when Lidge hit Jonny Gomes with the bases loaded to force in the Nats fifth run of the day. The unexpected drama allowed the Nats to win the game 5-4, and the series -- with both wins coming in walk-offs -- and marks the Nats fifth win in the last seven games between the two teams.
The Phillies took a 3-2 lead into a lengthy rain delay that started with two outs in the top of the sixth, with Chien-Ming Wang (5 2/3 innings, three earned runs on five hits and one walk, striking out four)one out from pitching a quality start. After the 1:11 delay, Tom Gorzelanny came on to record the final out of that inning. In the bottom, Espinosa greeted Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer, a Fairfax, VA native making his MLB debut, with a blast to straight-away center field to even the game. Espinosa finished the game 3-for-5 with two RBIs, his first homer and RBIs since July 19.
The Phillies broke the tie in the ninth against closer Drew Storen, who with one out gave up a walk, then consecutive singles to Carlos Ruiz and Michael Martinez, the former Nats farmhand. Storen then struck out the next two batters, but the damage was done.
It merely was prelude to Desmond's heroics. The second-year shortstop has struggled most of the season, his average hovering between .225 and .250 and has often been guilty of chasing pitches, being too aggressive or over-eager. But with lefty Antonio Bastardo on the mound, the 1-2 slider he threw Desmond stayed up, and Desmond hit a rocket to the left field bleachers.
"I've talked to [Desmond] one-on-one the last couple days, trying to clear his mind a little bit," manager Davey Johnson said after the game. "He tries to do so much. Just tried to simplify with him. He's a very aggressive player, and sometimes he's just overly aggressive. You don't want to take away from that but you want to be a little more patiently aggressive."
After Sean Burnett pitched a clean inning in the tenth, it was the Nats turn to get back to work. Ryan Zimmerman, Friday's hero, started the inning with a double down the left field line. After Lidge couldn't get Michael Morse fishing with his first two pitches, he put the slugger on with a free pass. Jayson Werth arrived to loud boos as he has all series, and laced a single to left that was too hard hit to score Zimmerman, bringing up Espinosa, who struck out on three pitches.
With the infield playing in, and Lidge trying to induce a ground ball to cut the run off at the plate, the pitcher wanted to keep everything on the inside part of the plate so Gomes could not extend on a pitch. But the second delivery was too far inside, and Gomes didn't flinch. Zimmerman trotted home with the winning run, and with that the Nats sent 30,000 Philly fans back up I-95 with a sour taste in their mouths, losers of two out of three tot he Nationals.
Of the legions of Phillies fans at Nats Park over the three-game series, Johnson joked, "This is kinda new for me. I kinda look at 'em as our fans cause they got red on." But he was philosophical after the chuckles. "Anywhere I've ever been when the team starts winning the fans come out. That's what I'm hoping happens here real quick."
"It's a great feeling. We want to get our fans out here. I love playing in front of a packed house," Johnson said of the pro-Phillies crowd. "I know my guys have that same feeling. Even if it's for the other team."
THE GOOD: Espinosa had three hits, and Desmond, Rick Ankiel and Zimmerman each had two in a 12 hit attack.
THE BAD: Until his 10th inning single, Werth had been 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
THE UGLY: Storen had a rough inning, putting three runners on in a tie game in the top of the ninth.
THE STATS: 12 hits, one walk, 13 strikeouts. 3-for-8 w/RISP, 10 LOB. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Monday at 7:05 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.87) faces Joe Saunders (8-10, 3.91).