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Those of us who haven't played major league baseball don't know how it feels to win a big 13-inning game over a division opponent in the midst of a pennant race. We don't know how it feels to lose that type of game, either.
So how dramatic is the swing of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other? How much does it hurt to lose a long, hard-fought game in which both bullpens were pushed to the limit and nearly all 25 guys on the roster left the stadium physically and mentally spent?
A few players in the Nationals clubhouse said they make an effort to ensure they don't get too high after a win or too low after a loss, regardless of the circumstances. But other guys were willing to admit that last night meant a little more than just one game in the standings.
"It's huge," veteran Chad Tracy said last night. "Both teams used their bullpens and probably won't be so fresh tomorrow. Knowing we're six games up (over the Braves in the division), we come out and play our game knowing we can't be more than four back (at the end of the series), it's huge. They know that, too. They were looking to come in here and try to do some damage and walk away with their heads held high and hopefully now they can't. ... If it swings the other way, sure, you don't sleep as well tonight. There's a little more pressure on you tomorrow. That's the way to set the tone for the series."
"Big-time win," Danny Espinosa said. "To play that many innings, ... you don't ever want to play that many innings, especially against these guys. It's so tight in our division to lose a game like that. So definitely the momentum is on our side right now."
Despite the fact that seemingly no more than 10,000 fans were still in the stadium by the time the winning run crossed the plate last night, Davey Johnson commented that he thought the game had a playoff atmosphere to it. He also said that vibe might have caused some of his players to press a little bit and make what he called "high-energy mistakes".
Jordan Zimmermann admitted you could put him in that category. Yesterday's Nationals starter said he was a bit too amped up in the first inning, and his pitching suffered. Interestingly, Craig Stammen, who now is 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA after last night's effort (how about those numbers?) went the other way and said he actually feels that the magnitude of the game helped him focus maybe a little more than normal.
"A lot of us have never played in an important baseball game since like college or high school or maybe the minor leagues," Stammen said. "So I think it's important to get a little nervous or anxious, a little more adrenaline going on. I think it's definitely important to play games like that."
Jayson Werth came up shaking his surgically repaired left wrist after running into the right-center field fence on a fifth-inning double last night, but he insisted that he merely jammed the wrist and will be fine. The veteran outfielder had another hold-your-breath type of moment in the field the very same inning of that double, when he sprinted in and made a sliding catch of Michael Bourn's sinking fly ball, a play which looked eerily similar to the one which left him with a broken wrist on May 6.
"I think the scary play was the little ball I came in on," Werth said. "That was the first play (like that) I've had since I broke my wrist. Definitely was not really thinking about it, but was glad everything went well.
With his home run last night, his 18th of the season, Ian Desmond not only notched his first hit since coming off the disabled list, but also set a franchise record (Nationals and Expos) for most single-season homers by a shortstop. The old mark was set by Orlando Cabrera in 2003.
He showed reporters the inscribed baseball, which rested in his locker after the game.
"It felt good," Desmond said of the homer. "I had great BP today. I felt good and, you know, kind of excited to get back in the swing of things."
Tracy, meanwhile, now has 10 pinch-hit RBIs this season after notching one in the 13th last night. That ranks him second in the majors behind only the Padres' Jesus Guzman, who has 11. Considering Tracy missed 55 games with a groin injury, the fact he still ranks so high in that category is a testament to what he's been able to do when healthy.