Nats let one slip away in extra innings
Visitors build early lead, but Phillies storm back, win in 10
PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals suffered their first tough loss of the season on Thursday afternoon. They blew a five-run lead and saw the Phillies win, 8-7, in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park.
The game was tied at 7 in the bottom of the 10th, when Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins put on a show. He led off with a single. Shane Victorino was the next hitter and bunted the ball near the third-base line.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman grabbed the ball and was able to throw to second baseman Ronnie Belliard for the first out of the inning, but Rollins kept going and slid into third with ease. Rollins noticed that nobody was covering the bag.
Fortunately, when Belliard threw the ball to third, both first baseman Nick Johnson and shortstop Cristian Guzman ran to cover the third-base bag. Johnson prevented the ball from being thrown away when he caught Belliard's throw.
Catcher Jesus Flores should have been covering third, but he, too, went after the ball that Zimmerman grabbed.
"It's a tough play because usually, if the catcher can't field the ball, he usually keeps going to third base, but both of the guys went for the ball," manager Manny Acta said. "It's just a great heads up play by Jimmy Rollins."
With the winning run 90 feet away, Acta ordered both second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard to be walked intentionally to load the bases. Up stepped Jayson Werth, and reliever Jesus Colome couldn't find the plate. Werth walked on four straight pitches to score Rollins.
The loss snapped the Nationals' three-game winning streak.
At first, it appeared to be a laugher in Washington's favor. The visitors batted around and scored five runs in the first inning off left-hander Jamie Moyer.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Zimmerman hit what appeared to be a routine double play to Rollins, who was able to get the force at second, but Utley threw the ball away, allowing Guzman to score.
After Austin Kearns walked to put runners on first and second again, Aaron Boone singled up the middle to score Zimmerman. Belliard then doubled to left-center field to drive in Kearns and Boone. Two batters later, Flores doubled to send Belliard home.
Washington would score two more runs the rest of the way, but it should have scored more. The visitor's best opportunities came in the second and ninth innings. In the second, with Moyer on the mound, the Nationals had the bases loaded with no outs, but Kearns hit into a double play and Aaron Boone struck out swinging to end the inning.
"I thought we had our chances," Acta said. "In the second inning, we should have scored a couple of runs there and get Jamie out of the game earlier. We should have added on to it. Other than that, we did battle."
Said Zimmerman: "We got an early lead. We had plenty of other opportunities to add on, especially in this park. With a team like that, you have to take advantage of those opportunities."
In the ninth, Washington had the bases loaded again with two outs and the situation called for Dmitri Young to pinch-hit for pitcher Luis Ayala, but Willie Harris came to the plate instead and grounded out to first base to end the inning.
It turns out that Young was not available for the game. His back problems are getting worse. He had an MRI on his back on Thursday and will be re-evaluated the next day. Young declined to talk to the media after the game.
"He came up to me and said his back was too tight," Acta said. "He couldn't get it loose and he couldn't play today."
Washington right-hander Jason Bergmann was cruising through the first five innings, giving up one run. Bergmann had a 6-1 lead, but he couldn't get out of the sixth. After Shane Victorino led off the inning by grounding out to Boone, Bergmann allowed four consecutive hits and RBI singles to Pat Burrell and Geoff Jenkins to make it a 6-3 game.
Bergmann left after the Jenkins hit, but the bullpen fared no better. Saul Rivera entered the game and allowed hits to all three batters he faced. The biggest blows were a two-run single by Pedro Feliz and an RBI single by Greg Dobbs to tie the score at 6.
Left-hander Ray King and entered and gave up a single to Victorino to drive in Chris Coste and give the Phillies the one-run lead. During the inning, the Phillies collected seven consecutive hits and Rollins was hit by a pitch before getting the second out of the inning.
"It's tough," King said. "Anytime you score six runs, you are supposed to win that ballgame. Today was a day where that one inning, [the bullpen] fell apart. We can't dwell on it. You learn from it. Today, it was one of those games where we came up six and they matched us.
"You never want to lose a ballgame, but look on the bright side: we won the series. We had them on the ropes and we let them off. Now we have to regroup [Friday]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.