Nats wrap up homestand with late rally
Zimmerman, Belliard, Guzman come through with big hits
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals lost eight of their first 11 games against the Phillies in 2008, and part of the credit should go to the strength of Philadelphia's bullpen and its ability to keep Washington's hitters guessing.One especially frustrating night for the Nationals came when Phillies reliever Chad Durbin shut them down Aug. 19, holding them scoreless through two innings and handing them the 11th loss in a season-high 12-game losing streak. "That dude is filthy, man," Nats outfielder Willie Harris said of Durbin after that game. Filthy, sure. But not unbeatable. Especially the way Washington has been hitting the ball lately. The Nationals slapped Durbin with four earned runs as they came from behind to beat the Phillies, 9-7, on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. The win completed an 8-1 homestand for Washington, in which the Nats were victorious in series over the Dodgers, Braves and Phillies. During those nine games, the Nats averaged 6.5 runs per game. "I couldn't ask for a better homestand, especially the way things have gone for our fans," manager Manny Acta said. "To do it here at home, against good teams, it's very rewarding." Washington was shut out by Philadelphia on Tuesday, but didn't make its fans wait very long to see some offense on Wednesday. The Nats scored two runs in the first on a double by Ryan Zimmerman and a single by Kory Casto. The Nationals had a 4-3 lead going into the sixth, but it was erased when Ryan Howard hit his second home run of the night, a two-run shot off Marco Estrada. With a 5-4 lead in the seventh, Philadelphia handed the ball to Durbin. But at that point, the Nats' biggest hits were yet to come. Zimmerman blasted a solo home run to center field to tie the game in the seventh. In the eighth, Ronnie Belliard's pinch-hit single scored Pete Orr to give Washington the lead. The Phillies replaced Durbin with J.C. Romero, who, two batters later, surrendered a bases-loaded double to Cristian Guzman. Before Wednesday's game, Durbin and Romero had combined to hold Washington scoreless in 11 innings this season. "Part of their strength is getting us out all year," Zimmerman said of the Phillies' bullpen. "They're tough guys; they know how to pitch, they don't give in and they make good pitches when it counts, and tonight, they finally made a couple mistakes and we put good swings on them. It's nice to scratch a few across against them, especially since they've pretty much dominated us all year." Guzman's three RBIs in the eighth inning were just the latest chapter of what was a tremendous homestand for the shortstop. He finished 3-for-5 on Wednesday, improving his average to .538 (21-for-39) in the past nine games. "He's been doing it for us the whole season," Acta said. "He's having quality at-bats. He's being more patient." It's nice to see him the whole year pretty much healthy," Zimmerman said. "I think the first couple years, D.C. didn't see the real Guzzie. Now that they can kind of see that, they can see the kind of player he actually is. A great teammate. We've always seen that, but not everyone kind of sees who he really is." On Wednesday, the Phillies' bullpen got to see Guzman, and, for them, it wasn't good.
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.