The Washington Nationals have won just two of their last five, but they've won six of their last ten and 12 of their last 20. With Tuesday night's win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nats moved ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks into third place in the Wild Card race, though they remain 7.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second of two Wild Card spots that are up for grabs. The defending NL East champs won last night in Citizens Bank Park, 9-6, but it wasn't pretty.
"That was an ugly game, that's all I can tell you," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Nationals' 138th game of the year. "That's one of the uglier ones I've seen. Gio [Gonzalez] had a real rough start and threw a lot of pitches, and he hung in there, but we were sloppy behind him and that's not the way you win pennants, I'll tell you that." Gonzalez threw 118 pitches in just 5 2/3 IP and gave up five hits, three walks and five runs, though just one was earned. The Natonals committed three errors, they took nine walks, two of which forced in runs. It was an ugly night overall, but not without moments of levity.
Like when Bryce Harper forgot there was only one out in the bottom of the eighth. The Nationals' 20-year-old outfielder charged a fly to left by John Mayberry with one down in the Phillies' half of the eighth inning, and Harper kept sprinting in after he made the catch for what he thought was the third out. Nats' right-hander Tyler Clippard had given up a one-out home run by Philly third baseman Cody Ashce, but got a fly to left from Mayberry for the second out of the inning. At some point on Harper's run in someone relayed the message that it was only the second out, so Harper through threw the ball in and made the jog of shame back out to left field...
• Watch Harper Forget How Many Outs There Are:
And here's our artfully edited, black and white film interpretation of Bryce Harper's out gaffe:
"He's a thrill-a-minute," Davey Johnson said when asked about the incident. "I'm just glad he's still on his feet at the end of the game, and it didn't look like he had as much problem with the hip tonight which is good news."
Some more good news? Denard Span extended his career-high hit streak to 16 games over which he's now 27 for 65 (.415/.457/.569) with three doubles, two triples and a home run, leaving the 29-year-old first-year National with a .279/.329/.380 line on the year. "He's in a good spot," Johnson told reporters, "He's been swinging the bat really good. And he's been more aggressive. I mean, the first [at] bat he kind of takes a lot of pitches, but after that he's real aggressive and he's a much better hitter. He was about ready to go into the .250s and got on this 15-16-game hitting streak."
It wasn't all good news, of course, in what was a long one last night (3 hrs; 38 minutes). After the Nationals scored two in the top of the sixth to take a 7-2 lead, Gio Gonzalez retook the mound and gave up a one-out walk, threw a wild pitch and had an error allow the Phillies' third run of the game to score. A two-out RBI single by Michael Martinez followed and it was all-of-a-sudden 7-4 with Gonzalez done for the night. Ryan Mattheus took over there against Phillies' pinch hitter Chase Utley, who was 0 for 4 vs Mattheus before the at bat and 1 for 5 after an RBI single drove in the runner the Nats' reliever inherited. 7-5. Mattheus threw two wild pitches before recording the final out and getting the Nationals through the sixth.
"He's a sinker baller and the first pitch he throws to [Chase] Utley, Utley hadn't gotten a hit off him, I think he was 0 for 4, and I knew that it was going to be [Domonic] Brown or Utley and neither one of them's got a hit because he's got a great sinker. And I think he just tries to overthrow it and leaves it up letter-high and it's a nice pitch to hit when you're pinch hitting. But we've got to keep going to him. He's got to get it right."
There are a few people Johnson has to get right going forward as the team attempts to make an improbable run. "We still aren't out of it," the Nats' skipper said, "and we're just handling things as... you know, it's individuals. There's a few cracks in the dam. I need to plug them, I'm running out of fingers."
More from Federal Baseball:
- Nationals Win Ugly, 9-6 Over The Phillies, But At Least They Won...
- Game 138 WPA: Like baseball, only sloppier. Nats 9, FF 6
- Nationals 9-6 Over Phillies On A Long Night In Citizens Bank Park
- Nationals Announce Second Wave Of September Call-Ups: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Zach Walters + More
- Nationals' Next Manager Search: Randy Knorr Throws Hat In Ring