Washington entered the series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies in an unusual position – tied for the best record in the National League and atop the NL East. The Phillies, the top team in the division in each of the past five seasons, sat at the bottom of the standings. After taking the first two games of the series, Washington had beaten their rivals seven consecutive times.
Win #8 in a row didn’t quite come tonight, though the game proved to be much closer than the final score would indicate.
The fireworks (per se) got started early, as Phillies starter Cole Hamels hit Bryce Harper with a pitch (the first pitch) in his first at bat of the game. Harper didn’t flinch and didn’t even look towards the mound, instead he simply headed down to first base. The next batter, Jayson Werth, singled to left with Harper hustling to third on the play. Hamels then made an effort to pick Werth off at first when out of nowhere Harper came storming home, stealing on the play for this first career stolen base and the game’s first run. Harper was the first teenager to steal home since 1964.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, however, it would be the only run they’d score until late in the game.
Hamels and Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann (who did hit Hamels with a pitch in the 3rd inning, perhaps in retaliation for Harper getting beaned) both pitched well over the course of the game. Zimmermann really only ran into trouble in the 4th inning, surrendering a leadoff walk to Shane Victorino before Hunter Pence hit a two-run home run to left center field. A Laynce Nix single, a groundout, and a single by Placido Polanco would bring across one more run, giving the Phillies a 3-1 lead after 4 innings.
Zimmermann (L, 1-3) pitched well but once again suffered from a lack of run support. Over 6.0 innings he allowed 7 hits, 4 walks, and only struck out one. Craig Stammen and Sean Burnett each followed with perfect innings out of the bullpen.
Ryan Perry entered the game in the 9th inning and after quickly getting the first out of the inning promptly gave up a walk, stolen base, single, triple, and home run (Pence’s second on the game) to the next four batters. Suddenly it was 7-1 Phillies. An out and two more hits later, Perry was being replaced by Tom Gorzelanny, who allowed a single to the first batter he would face, allowing two more runs to cross the plate to make it 9-1.
Washington was able to plate two more runs in the 9th, both coming with two outs. Rick Ankiel reached base on a fielder’s choice and was followed by a Wilson Ramos single, giving the Nationals runners on 1st and 2nd. Roger Bernadina pinch-hit for Gorzelanny and doubled to right field, scoring Ankiel. Ramos would score moments later on an infield single by Ian Desmond before the Phillies were able to finish off the game.
Injury News: Werth ended up leaving the game during the 6th inning after suffering what appears to be a wrist injury. Diving for a ball in right field, Werth’s wrist appeared to have gotten twisted underneath his body as he landed for the ball. He visibly struggled to his feet in order to get the ball back into the infield before being attended to by the team’s training staff and Davey Johnson. He walked off the field under his own power, but from the way he was holding his arm it seems evident that he was in a great deal of pain. Let’s hope this doesn’t prove to be as serious an injury as it first looks.
Update, 5/7, 12:02 AM – Per multiple sources via Twitter, Werth broke his left wrist and will miss a minimum of 6 weeks. He’ll undergo further tests tomorrow.
Champ of the Game: For the Nationals, the choice here has to be Harper. In addition to stealing home in the 1st, he slapped a single to left late in the game that he was able to stretch into a double thanks to the fact that he sprinted out of the batter’s box without delay. The way this kid plays the game – hustling on every single play, showing great patience at the plate, and good instincts in the field (despite the one misplayed ball in the 9th) – has been a welcome addition to the Nationals lineup. And he’s only going to continue getting better.
For Philadelphia, the nod goes to Hamels here, who improved to 4-1 with the win. He pitched 8.0 innings and would have finished the game if it weren’t for the lengthy offensive outburst in the top of the 9th inning. He struck out 8, walked one, and allowed just five hits on the game. Honorable mention goes to Pence for the pair of home runs and for driving in more runs (4) than the Nationals scored as a team.
Chump of the Game: Perry is the easy choice for Washington. He allowed 6 runs (all earned) on just five hits while only recording two outs. His now holds a 23.63 ERA on the season.
Unsung Hero: Stammen. He entered the game in the 7th inning with the bases loaded and no outs and was able to work out of the jam without allowing any runners to score.