Nats fans who bought tickets for the Friday night game at Nats Park anticipated seeing Stephen Strasburg pitch. That did not happen, due to Strasburg being scratched from his start due to forearm tightness. What the fans did see was a terrific baseball game featuring a decent spot start by Ross Ohlendorf, home runs, silly infield singles, amazing assists from Bryce Harper, a hitting streak on the line, and a Nats victory over the Phillies by the score of 6-1. The win brought the team to within 4 ½ games of a wild card spot.
Ohlendorf pitched five innings, giving up one run and lasting long enough to get the win. He had a rocky start to the game in the first inning, when the Phillies scored their only run. He walked the first batter Cesar Hernandez, gave up a single to Chase Utley that sent Fernandez to third, and a RBI single to Carlos Ruiz that left Utley standing at third. Ohlendorf then escaped from the inning by striking out Darin Ruf and Cody Asche to end the Phillies threat.
The Nats evened the score off Kyle Kendrick in the bottom of the first. Ryan Zimmerman singled and Jayson Werth walked. Harper lined out to right, but Zimmerman alertly tagged up and went to third. Ian Desmond reached on an infield single that he chopped high off the plate, scoring Zimmerman.
Wilson Ramos homered in the top of the second, putting the Nats ahead. Zimmerman contributed another bomb in the top of the third and the Nats were starting to make the crowd believe that another win was in sight.
Ohlendorf meanwhile had settled down from his rocky first inning and allowed no base runners until the fourth when he hit Ruf with a pitch. Ruf went to second and then to third on passed balls by Ramos, and the Phillies were in danger of scoring a run without a hit. Ross walked Asche, and then induced Kevin Frandsen to ground into a double play to end the inning and escape without the Phils scoring a run.
Harper and Steve Lombardozzi, who got the start at second, teamed up to save Ohlendorf’s bacon in the fifth inning. Freddy Galvis hit a ball to left field that Harper had to slide into the wall to pick up. Harper came up with the ball and threw a perfect strike to Lombardozzi, who alertly kept the tag on Galvis after he reached base. Galvis came off the bag and was called out because Lombardozzi never lost contact with the runner. This was an important play, because Kyle Kendrick then doubled off the outfield wall in left–and beat Harper’s throw to second by a whisker. That double would have scored a run for the Phils and made the score 3-2 with no outs and a runner on second. Instead, after giving up a single to Hernandez, Ohlendorf escaped the fifth by popping up Jimmy Rollins and getting Utley to line out.
The Nats piled on in the bottom of the fifth, when they scored four runs on balls that did not leave the infield. After Denard Span grounded out, Zimmerman singled, Werth drew a walk and Harper singled to load the bases. Desmond made it to first on another infield single, scoring Zimmerman and keeping the bases loaded. That was it for Kendrick, who was relieved by leftie Cesar Jimenez who came in to face Adam LaRoche.
After LaRoche struck out (note to Davey Johnson–Please, Please, Please do not start LaRoche against Cole Hamels on Saturday. Thank You.) the Phillies brought in Luis Garcia to pitch. Ramos chopped a ball off Garcia’s foot that went about three stories high. No one knew where the ball was for a moment, which allowed Werth and Harper to score and Ramos to reach first. The Nats were now ahead 6-1 and were cruising.
Craig Stammen relieved Ohlendorf in the sixth inning and Harper and Lombo helped him with their defense. Harper gained another outfield assist by throwing out Ruiz at second with a perfect throw and a perfect tag by Lombardozzi. Stammen, despite giving up a single during the frame, after the out, did not allow a run.
Fernando Abad pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth for the Nats. Drew Storen pitched the ninth, which was not without minor drama. After getting Ruf to fly out, Storen gave up a single to Asche, but erased it all with a double play ball from pinch hitter Domonic Brown.
And now the news you read this entire post to know–yes, Denard Span extended his hitting streak. Span singled in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the streak to 24 games.
Werth did not have a hit, but drew two walks. Zimmerman hit his ninth home run in eleven games, and went 3-4 with a walk. Desmond went 2-4 with two RBI. Ramos went 2-4 with three RBI. Lombardozzi went 2-4. Who’s hot? Just about the entire Nats lineup right now.
Next Game: Saturday, September 14th at 7:05 p.m. EST at Nationals Park. This game will feature Gio Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31 ERA) pitching for the Nats, while Cole Hamels (7-13, 3.45 ERA) takes the mound for the Phillies. This could be a good battle of the lefties if both pitchers are on their games.