This four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies means absolutely nothing to the home team, as they have already clinched the N.L. East title. But to the Washington Nationals, every game they play is another step toward respectability, and with eight games left they sit just four games below .500, courtesy of sweeping a day-nigth doubleheader from the Phillies, by the scores of 4-3 and 4-0.
In the day game, Ryan Zimmerman entered as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 10th inning and delivered an RBI single to score Michael Morse, who walked and had taken second on a passed ball by rookie catcher Erik Kratz. Drew Storen gave up a hit and a walk in the bottom of the frame, but made the run stand up for his 49th save of the season and made a winner out of Tom Gorzelanny (4-6, 4.09), who gave up a hit and a walk in his scoreless inning of work in the ninth.
Tommy Milone deserved a better fate, as all the scoring came after he left the game. The rookie lefty tossed six innings of shutout ball, giving up just four hits, striking out two and walking none.
In the nightcap, Ross Detwiler was dominant, allowing just three hits and one walk over 7 1/3 innings, striking out three, leading to a 3-0 shutout of the division champions. Detwiler (3-5, 3.30) didn't allow two runners in any inning up until the seventh, when a walk and hit batter put two on with two out, but he got John Mayberry, Jr. to fly out to end the frame. Henry Rodriguez pitched the eighth and Storen came back out for the ninth for his 40th save of the season.
Danny Espinosa hit his 20th home run of the season off Cliff Lee in the second inning, and the Nats scored single runs in the sixth and seventh innings for the margin of victory.
The Nationals refuse to go into this good night. They have won eight of their last ten games and are 11-8 overall in September, after so many early-fall failings of the past. With eight games remaining their record is 74-79, just four games below .500, and they sit one game up on the New York Mets for third place in the N.L. East. In fact, they currently have the ninth best record in the entire National League.
These achievements may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but for a franchise, organization and fan base that haven't had much to cheer about since the move in 2005, they represent incremental progress toward the ultimate goal of being truly competitive. Small steps, but steps none the less.