Espinosa and Cora plate key insurance run

The Phillies had just scored two big runs to cut the deficit to 6-3, and even though it was the eighth inning, the Nationals knew the defending division champions were not going to go away.

In the bottom of the eighth, Danny Espinosa went to work, drawing a walk from Phillies reliever Danys Baez. After a groundout by Jerry Hairston Jr. got him to second base, Alex Cora smacked a single to left field to plate a critical insurance tally, and the Nationals led, 7-3.

Crucial to the success of the play was the speed of Espinosa rounding third base. Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez quickly picked up the short single in left and fired the ball on a close to perfect strike to catcher Carlos Ruiz, who just missed the speedy Espinosa, safe at home.

Cora then dashed for second base as the throw again came in late and suddenly the Nationals had that extra run they needed, plus another man in scoring position with just one man out.

Espinosa says that final run took some of the bite out of the Phillies' attempted rally.

"I think it was important because it turned momentum back our way," Espinosa said. "They put an inning together and to get another run kills their momentum. It takes the air out of team when you do something like that."

The Phillies scored a run in the final frame, but also had another man on after the Placido Polanco RBI single. However, the Nationals' Sean Burnett got Jimmy Rollins to line out to Ian Desmond to end the game.

The Nationals won, 7-4.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says the seventh run was important to keep the Phillies at arm's length.

"No question," Riggleman said. "You got Ryan Howard lurking over there and he could have made life miserable for us. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw. Cora stuck it out there and it is just out of the reach of Polanco. He ticks it away enough that it is just out of the reach of Jimmy Rollins. Sometimes you need a break there and we got a couple tonight."

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