Photo by Max Cook / We Love DC
Last night’s game ended the way the storybooks tell you they do: with a walk-off homer and a mob at home plate. Ryan Zimmerman, with two men on in the bottom of the ninth inning, absolutely crushed the ball to the grassy patch that’s part of the center field batters’ eye. The Nats chalk up a curly W, 7-5 and guarantee a series win over division opponent Philadelphia. How they got the win is important, but how they nearly wound up down to the last at-bats in the ninth is crucial, too.
Photo by Max Cook / We Love DC
The Nationals starting things up early against the Phils, getting five singles off starter Joe Blanton in the first, and posting a three run lead for pitcher Ross Detwiler. Detwiler would give up just one run before coming out in the sixth, doing the starter’s job, and giving the Nats offense a chance to secure their opportunities. In the seventh, with Tyler Clippard on the mound, the Nats found themselves in trouble. Clippard walked Placido Polanco and facing Raul Ibanez, hung a meatball curve out over the plate, and Ibanez sent it into the left-field stands to tie to the ballgame at four apiece.
In the 9th, Sean Burnett came out to do his part in the new closer-by-committee routine, and immediately gave up a walk to offensive threat Jason Werth. Werth would move to third by sacrifice and ground, and that’s when Riggleman pulled the double switch. Alberto Gonzalez came in to replace Desmond and Drew Storen came in to replace Sean Burnett. Storen surrendered a single to Carlos Ruiz, and suddenly it looked like the Nationals were in a great big heap of trouble. They retired the side, and proceeded to face down Brad Lidge. Mike Morse started the inning with a single over the head of the second baseman, and Nyjer Morgan bunted him over to second, nearly beating out the throw to first. Adam Kennedy drew a full-count walk that had Dibble and Carp jawing about the high outside strike on 3-1 for a least a good solid 120 seconds. Remember when broadcasters gently decorated the game with commentary, instead of slathering it on with a trowel? The single best broadcaster in the game remains Vin Scully, who allows for plenty of silent reflection, instead of constant jawing and catch-phrases. Enough, I’m off my soapbox.
With Kennedy on first, and Morse on second, Zimmerman sent Brad Lidge’s pitch deep into center. It was one of those shots that you just knew was gone, the second it left his bat. Zimmerman, not one to show up a pitcher took off for first, not pausing to admire the shot the way that the crowd of 38,000+ fans was. Met by the assembled clubhouse at home plate as the fireworks boomed over the Potomac, it was a victory for the Nats to celebrate. Adam Dunn remains a powerhouse part of the center of their lineup, Ryan Zimmmerman remains the most clutch hitter in baseball in the bottom of the ninth, and the Phillies would be leaving Washington without a series win.
If you’re a Nats fan, that’s all you can ask for.
What an amazing game last night! The look on the Phillies fans’ faces when he hit that home run was priceless.