PHILADELPHIA - The rally magic couldn't quite carry the Nationals tonight.
The Nats trailed by two runs entering the top of the ninth, and they looked like they might be piecing together another late comeback when Wilson Ramos homered with two outs and Asdrubal Cabrera delivered a pinch-hit single to extend the rally.
But Nate Schierholtz grounded out sharply to short to end the game, handing the Nats a 3-2 loss in the opener of this three-game set.
Here are reactions from the clubhouse after the loss:
On what he saw from A.J. Burnett tonight: "Yeah, good curveball. Curveball for strikes tonight. We want to be patient, but he didn't allow us to. Threw the fastball in the zone and threw his curveball for strikes, too. He can be really good if he does that. He was good tonight."
On if he's OK with the approach of his hitters after Ian Desmond reached with a leadoff double in the seventh: "Yeah. We want Harp to hit the ball to the right side. He was late on a fastball and hit it in the air to left. The objective there is to hit the ball on the ground, to his pull-side. Worst-case scenario. But he was just late on a heater. Wilson did kinda the same thing. And then we're out of that inning. We're not gonna bunt there. We were looking at Harp behind up there and pulling a ball, and he just didn't get it done."
On if Harper just got beat by Burnett in that at-bat: "He just got beat, yeah. He's trying to hit the ball to his pull-side, he just got surprised with a fastball. He threw some fastballs tonight at 91-92 and then he reached back a few times at 94-95. He pitched really well against us."
On why he went with Jerry Blevins in the seventh: "We've gone to the well quite a bit with our back-end guys. What we can't do is pitch them every day. And Matt Thornton's been up and in games and hot a lot lately, as well. So we went to Blev. Brown hit the ball off the end of the bat. We challenged and got that call. He went dull to Chooch and he hit a homer. Then he got through that inning. But the key to that inning, I think, is him getting behind to Ruiz and him seeing a lot of pitches. Other than that one pitch, he pitched perfectly fine in that inning. But yeah, those back-end guys can't pitch every day. So we're mindful of that and mindful of their load. Everybody's a big-league pitcher and everybody can get outs. Didn't work for him tonight."
On Blevins' struggles against righties this season: "I don't worry. I don't worry about any of our guys. We've got a situation in that inning where it's gonna go left-right-left. Again, we got the first out and then the righty got him and then he struck Asche out and hit Ruf but got Revere. So he got the lefties out that he was supposed to get out. Unfortunately, there was a homer mixed in. But I'm not worried about any of our guys. They've pitched well."
On when he knew Asdrubal Cabrera would be available tonight and if he came through his at-bat OK: "Yeah, he came out fine. I wanted to stay away from him tonight if at all possible, to give him a day to make sure. But we knew after batting practice. He went through a full BP and swung from both sides and had no issues. So he should be good to go."
On whether A.J. Burnett has the ability to reach back and ramp up his fastball when he needs to: "Yeah, I think back in the day he was 96-97. I think he's still got a little bit in the tank, 95-96 when he wants it. He doesn't have to do that. He just pitches and hits corners, and he has has that front-door sinker that's pretty deadly. He knows how to pitch. You've just got to tip your cap. He was pretty dang good out there."
On if Burnett's first-inning sinker to Harper seemed to start behind him and then come back for a strike: "He started that thing on the backside of my hip and it came back over the plate, kind of like a Bartolo Colon. He does the same thing. Those are guys that used to throw 98 mph and now they're pitching. When he wants it, he gets 95 in there. And he's got a great slider, curveball, he throws from all angles. He knows how to pitch."
On whether he was trying to pull a ball to advance Desmond in the seventh: "I mean, he gave me a pitch I could actually hammer a little bit. I think I just missed that pitch from putting it about 10 rows deep. I wish I could've got him over on that, but I saw a pitch I could drive and I tried to drive it out of the ballpark."
On if he felt like another rally was coming after Ramos' homer: "Absolutely. He hits a homer, 3-2 ballgame, Droobs gets that hit and Schierholtz comes up. That's a great inning for us right there. I wish I could've got on base for us and been a part of that. But sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. That's all part of it."
On his homer: "I was looking for one pitch in the zone. Make a good contact. Put the ball in play. After 0 for 3, I was looking to hit a single."
On if he felt confident a rally was coming in the ninth: "Yeah, ninth inning, I was talking with (Doug) Fister about a rally. Two-run difference is not a big difference. We can come back in those moments. Papelbon threw the ball good. The first two hitters. I wish there was a runner on base to try to tie the game. That's happen. That happens in baseball. Tomorrow is another day. We have to come back here and keep playing."
On Burnett: "His pitches were pretty good today. He mixed it up pretty good. All the credit for him tonight. Baseball is baseball. Next time we'll face him again. We'll try to do a little better job."