If the other 17 games between the Phillies and Nationals this season have anywhere close to as much excitement as the first, we should be in for quite a year.
Tonight’s game featured just three umpires, a manager (Charlie Manuel) ejected in the first inning, the potential game-winning run (Rick Ankiel) thrown out at the plate, 11 innings, four errors, 14 Nats runners left on base, and, by the end, very empty benches.
In the end, the Nationals escaped with a 4-3 walk-off win, thanks to Wilson Ramos’ bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning, which scored Steve Lombardozzi and gave the Nats first blood in their series with Philadelphia.
“That’s a crazy game, you know?” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “That was a wild game. But a good win.”
Expecting to get a complete day off, Ramos sat for over three and a half hours before manager Davey Johnson called his number to pinch hit for pitcher Ryan Perry with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th. At that point, Ramos was Johnson’s last option; he had used up all of his healthy position players earlier in the game.
“I know that the catcher is the last option for the manager to go and take a swing, because, you know we’re only two catchers on the team,” Ramos said. “If the other one gets hurt, the other catcher needs to be ready for the next inning but that was the last, the last option
“Early in the game, I was sitting on the bench, eating sunflower seeds and talking to my teammates. ... In that moment I just take my batting gloves and ‘OK, I’m the man.’ Go out and hit the ball hard.”
Ramos quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 to Phillies righty Michael Schwimer, but took a slider in the dirt, and fouled off two pitches before getting a slider that hung up in the zone. He put the barrel on it, lifting it over the head of shortstop Jimmy Rollins and scoring Lombardozzi, who flipped off his batting helmet as soon as he touched home and started celebrating.
“I was freaking out,” Lombardozzi said. “I threw my helmet and got to Ramos as fast as possible. I was saying to myself, ‘Did I hit home plate? I hope I did.’ You try to win in nine, but it’s exciting to get it done like that.”
Schwimer actually retired the first two hitters he faced in the 11th, but Lombardozzi singled to right to keep the inning going and Bryce Harper and Werth followed with two long, hard-fought at-bats that resulted in walks.
The Nats had stranded runner after runner throughout the earlier innings, but this time, they were able to string together a few quality at-bats and scratch across the winning run.
The Gatorade bath didn’t happen tonight, but Ramos got a face full of shaving cream and the Nats left the field with smiles on their faces and another win in the books.