There were so many things that had to go right for the Nationals to stage a ninth-inning comeback Friday night the way they did. Ryan Madson, the Phillies seemingly unflappable closer, had to be summoned for the third straight day. Jayson Werth had to see 11 pitches in his at-bat to lead off the inning. Danny Espinosa and Jonny Gomes had to single behind him. Wilson Ramos had to get a bunt down, something he nearly did not accomplish. Jesus Flores had to be intentionally walked in front of Ian Desmond — who singled in the game-tying run.
And Ryan Zimmerman had to work the count full before sending the next pitch just over the left field wall.
The Nationals also had to have an outstanding performance from their pitching staff: starting with Livan Hernandez warming up, starting the game and then waiting through a 2:22 delay, only to come back out and throw four innings — but extending to the phenomenal work of Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Todd Coffey to hold the Phillies to just one hit over the game’s final five innings.
It was a big win for the Nationals — who moved into 3rd place in the National League East with their 60th victory of the season and sit just three games under .500 after winning four of their last six games — and you could tell from the postgame clubhouse that they knew just how special an evening it was for them (especially to do it against the Phillies).
Here are some post-game quotes from a jubilant Nationals clubhouse:
Nationals manager Davey Johnson: That was just a fun game. It just got funner as the game went on.
On Ryan Zimmerman: What a game he had. He made a couple plays that nobody in this world I could see make — and what a great at-bat. He hit a bullet down the right-field line on a ball away. Took some tough pitches and then crushed that ball. I mean, as soon as it hit his bat, from my angle, I knew it was fair, and I knew it wasn’t going to hang around long. That’s a great ballclub we beat.
On the work of his bullpen: I mean, the bullpen was outstanding. I have to tip my hat to Livo. 2 1/2 hours in between, or whatever it was, he did a good job… It set it up for Gorzy and the bullpen. They gave up, what? (One) hit for the rest of the game, which was unbelievable.
On the effectiveness of Gorzelanny, who threw three innings after not having pitched in 13 days: “Actually, Gorzo came to me in Philly… and he said: ‘I’m in the pen. Use me.’ I kind of set him up, let him throw a couple days ago to get set up for this. That was pretty good use. It was outstanding.
On his approach against Madson: Just trying to get it out of the infield. I don’t think I had ever gotten it out of the infield against him. I guess you could say he’s dominated me throughout the whole time. One of those at-bats where I don’t really know how it happened. But I guess it got it done… his changeup is really good. He’s got the confidence to throw it any time. So you got to kind of have that in the back of your mind. But a 3-2 pitch, bases loaded, it’s pretty hard to throw something other than fastball.
On how he remains calm in these situations: The pressure’s on him, man. It’s not on me. I’m supposed to get out. The way I’ve always been taught is, the pressure is on the pitcher. Obviously, I want to get a hit as much as anyone else. But if you kind of put it into that mindset, it puts the pressure on him, keeps you calm.
On if hitting walk-offs get old: It’s the ultimate thing when you around third, your teammates are waiting there. For me to even have that at-bat that inning, obviously Jayson had the great at-bat. Jonny had a great at-bat. Ian had a good at-bat. When you can string together that many good at-bats against a pitcher like that, it’s a pretty special inning.
On what it was like for him to wait out the delay: It’s not easy. Let me tell you something. Two hours? I think I did 1:45 once. This one is really tough but I feel good… Today I feel really good and it’s something new for me. I don’t want to try to be a hero but I feel proud, too. You find somebody who’ll stop for two hours and a half, you call me.
On what it was like to watch the rest of the game play out: It’s nice. Four runs, I know that we’re fighting with Philadelphia all the time. We’re there and we’ve got good games all the time. I know that four runs, it’s not going to be enough for Philadelphia. To the last inning. We win in the last one. I see these guys in the bullpen, only one hit, it’s great. Gorzelanny, Burnett and Coffey, it’s amazing. We’re pitching like 12 something in the morning. For me individually, it’s really tough. It’s nice, it’s something I never do before.
On how he might feel tomorrow after throwing over 300 pitches: I don’t know. I’m going to let you know. It’s going to be tough because stopping and going back, but I went in the cold water today so let’s see tomorrow how I feel.
On if he ever considered not coming back out: No, because I throw in the cage and I see the ball is running really good. I don’t feel tired and the ball comes out of my hand really nice. I say, I don’t feel bad. I feel really good. I go in and come back and continue throwing because it’s going good. (Pitching coach Steve McCatty) is a little worried. I say ‘I feel good,’ and he said, ‘You sure?’ I’m throwing long toss before I go on the mound and he still asked me. I said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I feel good. I lie to my mom, but I’m never going to lie to you.’ He started laughing and I got to the mound and that’s it.