WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: Manager Davey Johnson #5 of the Washington Nationals argues a call with first base umpire Sam Holbrook during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on May 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals were 4 for 12 with runners in scoring position last night, with 14 hits, seven walks and 14 men left on base. They managed just three runs through nine innings, enough to tie the Philadelphia Phillies, but not enough to keep the game from going into extra innings with what was an already injury-riddled roster. A two-out rally in the eleventh gave Nats' skipper Davey Johnson one last chance to win it and he turned to the last player left on the bench, catcher Wilson Ramos. "Wilson's been swinging the bat really good lately," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "I'm down to my last man, we've been playing a man short for it seems like half a year, but we had opportunities the whole ballgame, but... the offense shows life, that was the good thing."
"We hit the ball a lot better throughout the lineup," Johnson continued, "[Chad] Tracy swung the bat really good. [Rick] Ankiel swung the bat really good and [Danny Espinosa], Espi looked good too, so, that's what we've been waiting on." Though the Nationals left a lot of runners in scoring position, (they have a .225/.356/.316 line w/RISP this season, 11th of 16 in AVG, 4th in the NL in OBP w/RISP, and 13th in SLG), the Nats' skipper said he's seeing positive signs. "Actually, at this point, I really like it because we're threatening. A lot of times this year, we've been awful quiet with the bats. I know it's coming, and it was nice to see some quality at bats from a lot of guys that haven't been doing it."
In the eleventh last night, the Nats rallied with two down with Steve Lombardozzi singling and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth both drawing two-out walks to load the bases and lead the Nats' manager to call upon Ramos for what ended up being the game-winning hit. Asked if he'd offered his catcher any advice before the at bat, Johnson said, "No," but he did communicate non-verbally with his catcher earlier in the inning to make sure he was ready, giving the 24-year-old catcher a nod and receiving one in return to let him know Ramos was ready when he was needed. Phillies' reliever Michael Schwimer, who had two outs in his third inning of work, got up 0-2 and was one strike away from escaping the bases-loaded jam when he went to his slider one too many times and left one up for the Nats' catcher to hit to center for the walk-off single.
"The at bat didn't start out too good, but it ended good," Johnson said. Ramos spoke to reporters after the game, and told them, "I was waiting for one pitch over the plate. He threw me a couple sliders and he hung the last one and I hit the ball right through the middle." Asked if he was looking for the slider, the Nats' catcher said, "In that situtation I was looking for a breaking pitch, because he threw me a couple and I swung and I looked bad with the slider, but he threw me the last one and hung the slider and I was thinking through the middle and that's where I hit it." Ramos then "flew" to first with his arms outstretched and was greeted at the bag by a mob of teammates who pounded the catcher in celebration of the walk-off winner.
With the win, the Nationals improved to 17-9 on the season. Lombardozzi (3 for 6), Tracy (2 for 5), Espinosa (2 for 3), and Ankiel (3 for 4) provided the offense on a night when Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman were unavailable and the Nats' three and four hitters (Harper and Werth) were a combined 0 for 8 with four walks between them (3 for Harper, 1 for Werth). Asked afterwards if he ever finds himself thinking about what this team might have been able to accomplish thus far this season if they had their full roster available, Davey Johnson told reporters, "Not really," because, "Just like today, some guys that may not get in there with [other] guys here got a chance to get going, a la Tracy and Ankiel had a great game and [Espinosa] swung the bat a lot better. So, those guys have to get right for us to be at full steam even with [Ryan Zimmerman] back and Michael Morse."