The Nationals trailed the first-place Phillies 4-2 heading into their last at-bats with Ryan Madson and his zero blown saves staring them down from the pitcher’s mound.
Eight batters later, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a grand slam to complete the stunning turnaround for a 8-4 victory over Philadelphia.
So how did the Nationals come back in the ninth against a pitcher as good as Madson?
Former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth set the tone for the big ninth inning by fighting back from 0-2 to eventually fight off 10 pitches from Madson before lacing a single to left field and the Nationals had a chance.
“I was just trying to see the ball off of him,” Werth said. “I was able to foul off a couple of tough pitches and get the barrel to an inside heater. We battled and got some key hits and some big at-bats. (Wilson) Ramos got the bunt down and Zimmerman finished them off.”
Danny Espinosa and Jonny Gomes followed with base hits that made it 4-3. After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, Ian Desmond slapped a bloop single to right field to tie the game up at 4-4 and Madson had his first blown save of the season.
When Rick Ankiel struck out, the bases were loaded with two outs and Ryan Zimmerman represented the Nationals’ last hope. That is the same Zimmerman with his seven career game-ending home runs. He said you have to get through the breaking stuff against Madson to get him to throw the heater when you want to see it.
“His changeup is really good,” Zimmerman said. “He has enough confidence to throw it at any time. You got to have that in the back of your mind. But 3-2 bases loaded it is kind of hard to throw something else besides a fastball.”
Zimmerman’s second career walk-off grand slam lifts the Nationals to their fourth win in their last five games against a team that has already won 80 games.
In only their third win in 56 games when trailing after eight innings, the Nationals proved that they can strike at any time, and did not let the Phillies’ four run third get them down.
“Four-nothing is not a lot,” Zimmerman said. “More importantly, our pitching and defense kept it at four-nothing. They are the best team in the league if you go by the record.
“Any time you can hold them to four runs (you have done something). (Livan Hernandez) did a good job coming back the inning after and obviously (Tom Gorzelanny) did a great job. Four-nothing is not a game that is out of reach and that is they way we felt the whole time.”