Nationals' offense in high gear
Wilkerson's cycle, Guillen's homer help sink Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Wilkerson hit for the cycle, but it was Jose Guillen's two-run home run off Phillies reliever Tim Worrell that helped the Nationals defeat the Philles, 7-3, in front of 23,435 fans at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
It was first victory in Nationals history.
"It makes it that much sweeter. We are hitting better and we got a combination where we got some big hits," manager Frank Robinson said. "It's nice to win your first ballgame.
The Nationals were down, 3-2, in the bottom of the eighth inning when they took the lead against Worrell (0-1). After Jose Vidro led off with a single, Guillen took Worrell's 0-1 pitch and hit the ball over the right center-field wall for a two-run home run and a 4-3 Nationals lead. It was Guillen's first home run of the season.
"Why do you think they brought me here?" asked Guillen, who came over from the Angels in a trade for Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis. "The last two years I've come up in those type of situations. I've been blessed to come through in those situations.
"I was looking for a good pitch to hit. He threw a first pitch inside. I was not looking for that pitch. He then threw a cutter right in the middle, and I was able to put the bat on the ball. You have to understand that the ball travels in this ballpark. I didn't hit it that good but it was good enough to go."
Robinson called Guillen's hit the biggest in the game.
"That really picked everybody up. It put us back to life and we got back in the ballgame," Robinson said.
The Nationals were not done with Worrell. After Nick Johnson flied out to center field, both Vinny Castilla and Terrmel Sledge followed with singles.
Manager Charlie Manuel took Worrell out of the game in favor of left-hander Aaron Fultz, who gave up a single to Brian Schneider. Outfielder Bobby Abreu overran the ball, and it allowed Castilla to score and gave the Nationals a 5-3 lead.
After pinch-hitter Wil Cordero struck out, Wilkerson completed hitting for the cycle with a ground-rule double to score Sledge for a 6-3 lead.
"What was real sweet about the inning was that we picked up a couple of clutch hits, which we haven't been doing (recently)," Robinson said. "That was huge in that inning. It put some space between us. We have been swinging the bats pretty good. We just haven't been getting the big hits. We got them tonight."
It's the second time in Wilkerson's career that he has hit for the cycle, with the other coming June 24, 2003, against the Pirates at Olympic Stadium.
Wilkerson said that Wednesday's cycle was much sweeter because it helped the Nationals pick up their first victory in franchise history.
"It's a special day to get the first-ever victory in franchise history," Wilkerson said. "We came up with some big hits tonight everybody contributed. We pitched well and played good defense."
In the third inning, Wilkerson homered off starter Brett Myers to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. In the fifth inning, he singled to right off Myers.
Two innings later, Wilkerson tripled off Rheal Cormier. As he was rounding second base, Wilkerson hurt his left ankle. He said it is not serious and is expected to play on Thursday afternoon.
Robinson credited Wilkerson for keeping the pressure on the Phillies pitchers.
"He did some big things. He got us on the board first with a home run," Robinson said. "He not only hit for the cycle, he was in the middle of things tonight. That's what he could do when he's hitting at the top of the lineup."
Castilla, who went 4-for-5 in the game, added to the lead in the ninth by hitting a ground-rule double off Terry Adams to score Vidro.
In the game, the Nationals collected 16 hits and now have a .363 average after two games. During April 2004, the team couldn't buy a base hit, getting shut out six times.
"I feel we are like a different ballclub this year. The front office added some pop in the lineup and we can hit," Wilkerson said. "We have guys up and down the lineup that can hurt you."
The winning pitcher was reliever Joey Eischen (1-0), while Worrell took the loss. Eischen said he had no idea that he was the first Nationals pitcher to pick up a victory until after the game.
"I'm a baseball fan and historian. I think it's really cool that I got the first win for the team," Eischen said.
It looked like Nationals right-hander Zach Day would be the winner. After five innings he had a 2-0 lead. But Day gave up three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, highlighted by a two-run home run by Pat Burrell.
Robison then took Day out of the game, which surprised the right-hander.
"For 5 2/3, I really felt I had my stuff working. Everything was working -- changeup, breaking ball. I was mixing it up," Day said. "I was kind of surprised that Frank was on his way out of the dugout. I really didn't expect it. Frank has the final call."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.