PHILADELPHIA - Regardless of whether you're watching a baseball game from your couch, the press box or the dugout, when a team hits a game-tying home run with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, you expect that team to go on to win.
Maybe it's the number of highlight reels we've seen, where the clip of the game-tying homer is quickly followed by the same team notching the game-winner later on. Maybe it's the Hollywood effect thanks to countless based-on-a-true-story movies.
When Chad Tracy homered off Jonathan Papelbon on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth tonight, a shot that tied the game at 4-4, the Nationals exploded in the third base dugout. They jumped up and down and exchanged high-fives, fully expecting that clutch homer to propel them to a victory.
"You gotta play the game, but when you tie it up, I think all of us had a feeling," Tracy said. "We expected to win, sure."
"We're excited when we saw Tracy hit a home run," said left-hander Fernando Abad. "We say we're back. We try to win. It just happened."
The "it" that Abad is referring to is the walk-off single by Domonic Brown, a hit that came on a 2-2 fastball on the inner half. Brown fought the pitch off, got the ball past the mound and it trickled into center field, allowing Ben Revere to score and giving the Phillies a 5-4 win.
"It was a sinker in," Abad said. "(Broken) bat. He put it in the right spot."
Abad was called upon in the bottom of the ninth because Davey Johnson didn't want to have Drew Storen warming in the top-half of the inning unless the game got tied up. Tracy's homer came so late in the half-inning that it didn't give Storen enough time to warm, so Johnson went with the left-hander Abad to face the left-handed-hitting Revere leading off the inning.
Abad said he felt he had enough time to get ready and believed he was plenty loose enough.
"Everything good. Everything was all right," he said. "For me, I think I make a good pitch and two broken bat. They had luck."
After holding opponents without a run over his first 10 appearances as a National, Abad has now allowed the game-winning run in two of his last three outings. He didn't get a lot of high-leverage spots until recently, but says he feels good in those situations, despite the results in the last few days.
"I feel comfortable whenever Davey calls my name," Abad said. "Whatever he wants, I'm ready for. No matter what situation, what call. I'm ready to go out and pitch and get (outs)."
One could say that the Nats might be able to take solace in the fact that they came back from a two-run deficit and tied the game, something they've done very infrequently this season. But when you're hovering around .500, the results are much more important than any silver linings that can be found in defeat.
"Maybe personally guys can take some things positive out of it," Tracy said. "But a loss is a loss. We lost. Nobody's happy right now, especially with coming back and having it stolen back from us. We'll be over it in a few hours and come back to the park tomorrow and try to win a game tomorrow."