The Nationals’ weekend series against the Phillies featured rain delays combining to eat up 3 hours, 33 minutes. Saturday’s game set a record for most fans to watch a game at Nationals Park, though a great majority of them weren’t rooting for the home team.
But by the time Davey Johnson sat down for his postgame press conference Sunday evening, he was all smiles.
“Well, that was fun,” he said.
Fun because the Nats took two of three against the team with the best record in baseball, both times in walk-off fashion. Sunday it was a walk-off hit by pitch as Jonny Gomes took one from Phillies reliever Brad Lidge to seal a 5-4 victory.
“That’s arguably the best team in baseball. We didn’t give up, by any means,” Gomes said. “When you’ve got guys playing a nine-inning ballgame to the last out, to the last strike, it shows a lot of what these guys have on their minds.”
What they have on their minds right now is a whole lot of winning. This was just their 61st win of the season, but capturing five of the last seven games against the Phillies is an accomplishment unto itself for a growing team.
“Anytime you can beat what I consider probably the best team in baseball, it’s a plus. There were a lot of good things we did and we learned a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s always fun to beat the best.”
And do so in entertaining fashion. A rare rough inning by closer Drew Storen in the ninth put the Nats behind 4-3, and a quick pair of strikeouts by Philadelphia’s Antonio Bastardo made a second straight loss look likely.
But Ian Desmond – down to his final strike and facing a 1-2 count – put real meaning into the idea of needing 27 outs to get a win. Knowing Bastardo from his time in the minor leagues, Desmond correctly anticipated a slider was coming and deposited it into the seats in left field.
After an error Saturday night, it was satisfying for Desmond to talk about doing something that contributed to a win.
“That’s why baseball’s so great – always having the opportunity to come back and redeem yourself,” he said.
While many of the 41,727 fans at Nationals Park were hoping for Bastardo to close it out, Desmond’s homer showed that Nats weren’t ready to concede, even against the best.
“You know I think this club has a real good grasp on the game and realizes that we don’t let the game speed up on us too much or get ahead of us,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “It’s kinda just pitch to pitch. Especially late in games, and that’s kinda the team we’ve been all year long.”
The final joy for the Nats came when Lidge’s pitch hit Gomes and gave them a series win.
“Getting hit was last on my to-do list that at bat,” Gomes said, “but it worked out.”