On a day when Adam Dunn’s spot on the Nats’ roster could be a thing of the past, Ryan Zimmerman showed the baseball world later that night a glimpse of the team’s potential future.
Zimmerman became the player with the most walk-off home runs since his Major League debut on Sept. 1, 2005 with seven when he launched a three-run home run off closer Brad Lidge, his fourth blown save of the year, to give the Nats a 7-5 victory over their NL East rival Phillies. Only the Red Sox’ David Ortiz and the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier are close behind in walk off homers, tied with six. Zimmerman’s home run also secured the series victory for the Nats, marking their 13th series win of the 2010 season.
“That time, unfortunately (for Lidge), I was looking fastball and he left one over the middle of the plate,” said Zimmerman. “I just treat it like any other at bat and think the pressure’s on him and not on me, put a good swing on it and try not to do too much.”
Phillies’ starter Joe Blanton didn’t have his best stuff early Saturday night and the Nats took full advantage. In the first inning, Washington’s bats did the talking by getting three quick runs off Blanton, whose struggles on the road continue to hurt the Phillies in their quest for a third straight World Series appearance.
Blanton, who holds a 1-4 record with a 6.62 ERA away from Citizens Bank Park, allowed five hits in the first but the three two-out RBI singles to Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina and Pudge Rodriguez did the damage. The three runs put the Nats on top early and gave starter Ross Detwiler a cushion in just his second start with the club this season. Detwiler, who looked sharp out of the gate, tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings before allowing an RBI single to Wilson Valdez in the fourth.
“I wasn’t getting ahead of hitters like I need to,” Detwiler said. “It’s a stepping stone. It’s definitely not where I need to be but the team stayed in the game and we got the win so it’s a good stepping stone.”
“He gave us a chance to win the ballgame,” Riggleman said of Detwiler. “It was just another start to build on.”
Carlos Ruiz put the Phillies closer in the sixth with a solo home run to left off Joel Peralta to make it 3-2 - Ruiz’s third of the year. But Ian Desmond responded in the bottom of the inning with a sac fly that scored Bernadina who led off with a double to left.
With a two-run lead in the seventh, the inconsistent Tyler Clippard took over for Peralta and, after walking Placido Polanco, surrendered a two-run home run to Raul Ibanez, his 10th of the season, to tie the game, 4-4.
Clippard then allowed a single to Jayson Werth before being removed by Riggleman and replaced by Doug Slaten.
“He’s gotten burned a few times,” Riggleman said of Clippard. “I still have confidence in Clip though. I always feel like he’s going to get the job done. He’s been hot and cold.”
But it was Drew Storen who gave the Phillies the go-ahead run in the ninth when he allowed an RBI single to Ruiz that scored Jayson Werth.
“Obviously I owe Zim at least a dinner,” said Storen who ended up with the win. “My goal was to just go out there and attack and work ahead. It was more outside, he (Ibanez) made the adjustment and guys of that caliber are going to do that.”
With Lidge on the mound to start the ninth, Michael Morse singled to center and leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan put down a sac bunt advancing Morse into scoring position. Lidge then walked Adam Kennedy to put two on for Zimmerman who would put the team in all-too-familiar celebratory mode.
After Zimmerman hit the game-winning home run, he pointed to Dunn, who was standing in the on-deck circle, before hitting the base paths.
“I didn’t point at him, I laughed at him,” Zimmerman joked. “When you do something like that its fun... Not for me but for the team. It was a good day. A lot of us wanted (Dunn) to stay around. We’ve got something good going here and he’s a big part of it. It’s just a fun team to be around.”