Well, one late-inning lead into the closer-by-committee plan, the Nationals came out with a win. Kip Wells and Julian Tavarez finished the 4-1 victory over the Phillies by combining to allow two walks and one hit, but no runs, and the game ended with Tavarez striking out Shane Victorino, thumping his chest and hugging Jesus Flores.
Both pitchers have been loathe to call themselves late-inning fixtures; Wells talked at length on Wednesday night about not making the job any different than any other inning, while Tavarez said he expects Joel Hanrahan to take the closer’s job back sooner than later. For now, though, the two provide a sense of calm.
“The guys see us different because Kip Wells and myself have been around,” Tavarez said. “Nothing against the other guys in the ‘pen, but the guys that have been around, they see us different.”
As for Scott Olsen, he continued to get better tonight, allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings for his first win of the year. Olsen said his slider was the key to racking up six strikeouts in the first three innings; once the Phillies adjusted to it, he and catcher Jesus Flores had to counter-adjust, he said. Chris Coste hit one for a hard foul ball with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Figuring Coste would be sitting on the pitch and therefore expecting Olsen to change his offering, Olsen instead went right back to the slider. Coste smoked it, but Ryan Zimmerman made a stellar defensive play, going deep in the hole behind third base to grab the smash, and firing across the diamond to Nick Johnson, barely beating Coste. The throw saved a run and the stop probably saved at least two.
“Zim made what was, in my mind, a game-saving play,” Olsen said.
Hat-tips are also due to Anderson Hernandez, who had three hits, including two two-out RBI in the win and Garrett Mock, who went an inning and a third scoreless after Olsen came out of the game.
“It was very important,” manager Manny Acta said. “We know the last two innings are going to be handled by these two veteran guys, depending on the matchups. We needed that bridge to get there. Garrett was the right guy. He did a good job. We still didn’t throw as many strikes as we wanted to out of the bullpen, but it worked.”
That’s all from Philly. The Nats are back home starting tomorrow for a six-game homestand against St. Louis and Houston (their first two non-division opponents of the year). Mark will have you covered tomorrow—I’ve got to do a little apartment hunting. And besides, I probably should lay low for a day after calling somebody an old man on our Twitter feed (shameless plug).
I promise it was good-natured. That said, I expect retaliation in this space tomorrow.