So that happened.
The Washington Nationals continued to play some of their best baseball all year, as Brad Peacock pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings to lead the Nats to a 6-1 win over N.L. East champs -- and bitter rivals -- the Philadelphia Phillies. The victory completes a four-game sweep in Philadelphia, and moves the Nats to within three games of .500 with six left to play.
The Nationals have won five in a row and 11 of their last 13 games to go to 76-79, with a three-game home series against the Atlanta Braves over the weekend and a season-ending three games series in Miami against the Marlins next week to close out Sun Life Stadium as a baseball facility.
Rollins. Victorino. Utley. Ibanez. Ruiz. They were all in the lineup last night that Peacock (2-0, 0.75) fairly dominated. He allowed just one hit -- an infield single to third -- and two walks, striking out two in 5 2/3 innings, needing just 69 pitches in the process. Peacock was followed by a parade of relievers that kept the Phillies down, at least until things were well out of hand.
Perhaps the best move of the night came in the bottom of the ninth, when after Doug Slaten retired two lefties to start the frame, manager Davey Johnson came out to lift Slaten to bring in a right-hander, Todd Coffey, to face pinch-hitter John Mayberry. What was left of the 45,000-plus crowd booed the 68-year old skipper mercilessly for making a pitching change with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a then 6-0 ballgame, and Johnson relished the entire scenario, lifting his outstretched arms -- palms up -- skyward as if to soak it all in as he left the field, chuckling all the way.
The move, unfortunately, did not have the desired affect in the game, as Coffey gave up a double and single to lose the shutout, but he did get Ben Francisco to pop up to end the game, to more booing for the N. L. East Champions.
The Nats lived off the two runs they pushed across in the third against Roy Oswalt (L,8-10) for most of the night. Ian Desmond drove home Rick Ankiel on a pop-up double to right center and came home on a Roger Bernadina single. Bernadina later doubled in the eighth to plate Desmond (2-for-4) again and Michael Morse -- after a visit to the mound -- pounded a 3-2 offering from Oswalt into the center field bullpen for a three-run insurance shot.
Sure, the Phillies had nothing to play for. But the Nats are trying to finish strong and put a pretty bow on their second-best record since the move in 2005. No matter who was occupying the uniforms or how much attention they may or may not have been paying, sweeping the Phillies -- in Philadelphia no less -- is sweet music to the long-suffering denizens of NatsTown.
Let them boo.
THE GOOD: Desmond and Bernadina both had two hits, scored three runs and drove in three between them in the first two spots in the order. Dare to dream.
THE BAD: Laynce Nix went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
THE UGLY: Oswalt. He pleaded for one more batter after Bernadina's double and a walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the eighth. Be careful what you wish for.
THE STATS: 7 hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. 3-for-9 w/RISP, 2 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Zimmerman (11), Bernadina (1).
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 pm agaisnt the Atlanta Braves. Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 1.29) faces Tim Hudson (15-10, 3.19).