Just in case you were for some reason wondering, the answer is, "No." Davey Johnson, the Washington Nationals' 70-year-old skipper, has not given up on the idea of the Nats somehow making it back to the postseason in what's expected to be his final season on the bench in the nation's capital. After his team took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, Johnson admitted that it was a big series and a big win tonight in CBP, where he had one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard.
"It's big," Johnson said. "We don't feel like we're out of this thing. We're rooting for St. Louis right now. I'm scoreboard watching. So, then we'll go to Miami, have an off day and enjoy this pounding victory."
Johnson's Nationals wasted some early opportunities in the series finale with the Phillies, but battled back and made several extraordinary defensive plays in what ended up a 3-2 win.
After the Nats tied things up at 2-2 on Ryan Zimmerman's 17th home run on the season in the seventh, the Phillies got runners on second and third with one out against Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann, but Kevin Frandsen grounded to third and Zimmerman threw home to get Cody Asche for the second out of the inning. The Zimmermann on the mound then somehow got over to cover at first base on a Cesar Hernandez grounder to second and the Nats' pitcher made a running scoop of a low throw by Steve Lombardozzi for the third out of the Phillies' seventh inning.
"There were some good plays," Johnson told reporters. "Bullet hit down at [Ryan] Zimmerman. He made a heck of a play on that one. It was just a good night all around, except I don't know what we hit with runners in scoring position. It [couldn't] have been very good." The Nationals were 0 for 5 w/ RISP actually, but they still managed to come away with a win. An Adam LaRoche sac fly scored their first run, Zimmerman's home run the second and the normally small-ball-averse Nats manufactured the winning run.
Wilson Ramos walked to start the eighth against Phillies' reliever Jake Diekman. Jeff Kobernus came on to run. Johnson hit for left-hander Corey Brown with right-hander Scott Hairston against the left-handed Diekman and Hairston bunted Kobernus over to second in front of Steve Lombardozzi. Kobernus stole third on the lefty the Nats knew was slow to the plate and then scored ahead of a throw home by Chase Utley on Steve Lombardozzi's grounder to second base.
"I want to get a guy on there, first of all I think [Jeff] Kobernus could steal off Diekman," Davey Johnson said. "He's real slow to the plate. And if we didn't get [Kobernus] over, bunting him over -- actually I took the bunt off on two balls, no strikes on Hairston and he bunted anyway and then we gave [Kobernus] the green light to steal third. Figured because Diekman is real slow to the plate. I think we did it one time here last time we were here. And that was the big play. And [Lombardozzi] hit a topper in the infield, with that kind of speed on third, he's going to score."
The Nationals went up 3-2 when Kobernus scored, but the Phillies threatened again in the bottom of the inning. Utley singled with one down and took third on a hit by Carlos Ruiz, but Darin Ruf K'd swinging at a 2-2 slider in the dirt that got away from backup catcher Jhonatan Solano and when Utley tried to score from third, Solano recovered the ball quickly and tagged the Phillies' infielder before he reached home. Home plate ump Chris Conroy punched Utley out to complete a double play and the Nationals wiggled out of a tough situation with the 3-2 lead in tact after eight.
Rafael Soriano came out of the pen for his 38th save in the bottom of the ninth and the Nationals took 2 of 3 on the road in Citizens Bank Park. And if the Nats' skipper kept monitoring the scoreboard, he saw that the Cardinals outlasted the Cincinnati Reds for a win in a 16-inning game, and the Nationals found themselves 6.5 games out in the race for the second Wild Card spot as they headed down to Miami.
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