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Nationals Win Seventh Straight, 6-1 Over Phillies: Nats Making Wild Card Race A Race

The Washington Nationals won their seventh straight. Denard Span hit in his 24th straight. Ross Ohlendorf filled in for Stephen Strasburg. Ryan Zimmerman hit another home run. Naturally. Wilson Ramos crushed one too. The Nats kept winning in the first of three with the Phillies.

Patrick McDermott

Their 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in Nationals Park, was the Washington Nationals seventh in-a-row, their ninth of their last ten and their 21st of their last 30. With the win, the defending NL East champs pulled within 4.5 games of Cincinnati in the Wild Card standings as the Reds dropped a 5-1 decision to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nats are just four games back in the "almighty loss" column. Davey Johnson didn't have time to follow the matchup in Miller Park during tonight's game in the nation's capital, however.

When a reporter asked Johnson afterwards if he'd been tracking the score, he admitted that he hadn't been.

"Actually, I didn't look once," he said. "How's it going?"

"The Reds are losing," the reporter said.

"In the past, in this hot weather, 78 pitches he's usually hit a wall, but he was still throwing good at the end." - Davey Johnson on Ross Ohlendorf

"Oh, that's too bad," Johnson laughed. He didn't have time to look though. "There was so much going on in that game. We were pounding that ball. I think all our RBIs were in the infield. But I don't do a whole lot of [scoreboard] watching during the game."

Johnson was in a good mood after the Nationals' win.

Considering that he had scratched 25-year-old starter Stephen Strasburg earlier in the afternoon, it's possibly a good sign that he meant what he said when he told reporters on Friday that the irritation or "tightness" in Strasburg's forearm was not considered a big deal by the team or its doctors.

With the '09 no.1 overall pick sidelined, 31-year-old, '04 D-Backs' 4th Round pick Ross Ohlendorf took the mound in Washington, D.C. and held the Phillies to a run on five hits in five innings. Ohlendorf threw 31 pitches in the top of the first, but settled in after a long opening frame and was up to just 88 pitches when he left the game.

"In the past, in this hot weather," Davey Johnson told reporters, "78 pitches he's usually hit a wall, but he was still throwing good at the end. I had a left-hander ready for [Chase] Utley, but I felt like he deserved the opportunity to do it. And since [Fernando] Abad hasn't been getting lefties out that well I stayed there and he made the pitches. Great effort."

Phillies' left fielder Freddy Galvis lined to left start the fifth, but was thrown out at second by Bryce Harper when he slide past the base and had his hand come off the bag. Steve Lombardozzi was there waiting to apply the tag. Kyle Kendrick doubled with one down and took third on a single by Cesar Hernandez, but both runners were stranded when Ohlendorf got both Jimmy Rollins and Utley to end a 23-pitch inning.

"He was a little wilder early, but throwing hard. But pitched out of that jam in the first and he calmed down, that was pretty good." - Davey Johnson on Ross Ohlendorf

Johnson was impressed. "He's been great," the Nats' skipper said, "He was great out the pen and he was great starting. He had the same little problem he had, the fifth or sixth inning, hot weather, because he's a maximum effort guy. But I thought he had good stuff. He was a little wilder early, but throwing hard. But pitched out of that jam in the first and he calmed down, that was pretty good."

Ohlendorf was done for the night after five innings. Harper wasn't done. Carlos Ruiz lined a full-count fastball from Craig Stammen off the left field wall to start the sixth, but Harper was waiting for the ball when it bounced off the wall, and the 20-year-old outfielder got a friendly bounce which allowed him to catch it and throw in one motion, firing a strike to second that beat the Phillies' catcher to the bag where Lombardozzi again applied the tag.

The two outfield assists were Harper's 11th and 12th of 2013. "Both of those, you would think they're sure doubles," Johnson marveled. "Back to the wall and made perfect throws. It's good to take his mind off hitting. Give him something else to do." Harper was 1 for 3 at the plate, with a walk and a run scored. It was his work in the outfield that made a big difference on Friday though. "He's getting better," his manager said. "He's still a real young outfielder. But he's got a good arm. Accurate. He likes it."

"He's still a real young outfielder. But he's got a good arm. Accurate. He likes it." - Davey Johnson on Bryce Harper

Ruiz's line drive bounced right back to Harper. Galvis had his hand come off second base. On the offensive end, the Nationals got home runs from Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman, but the other four runs came in on infield singles, two by Ian Desmond and one by Ramos, with the Nats' catcher's bases-loaded grounder to the mound in the home-half of the fifth hitting pitcher Luis Garcia's foot before it shot straight up in the air.

"We're getting a few breaks now," Johnson said, "Ramos hit the ball off the pitcher's foot. It went up about three stories high. Nobody knew where it was and Bryce was running hard, that was great." Jayson Werth and Harper scored in quick succession on the play and the Nationals took a 6-1 lead that the bullpen preserved.

Ramos' solo home run in the second ended up providing the winning run. Zimmerman's home run in the third was the third baseman's 24th of the season, his seventh in the last seven games and his ninth in his last eleven. "About three weeks ago he started in BP pulling the ball better," his manager explained, "and I would say only one of these home runs of the last [nine] have been [to] right field. Where they were getting him out early, throwing him down and inside, now he's hammering that ball. So, I like it."

To cap things off, Denard Span extended his career-high hit streak to 24 games with a single in the fourth at bat of five he got on Friday night. Span's 1 for 5 game left the 29-year-old outfielder with a .280/.329/.384 line on the year. "He's been great," Johnson said. "He's had a hitting streak, but his on-base percentage is off the charts. He was down around, before he started, I think he was down close to .300 and .306 or something like that, now he's up over .330 I think. Which is important, him getting on, setting the table."

The Nationals are now 18-6 over the course of Span's hit streak.

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