The Washington Nationals’ (50-42) first hit with a runner in scoring position all night was an RBI single from Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the tenth, as the Nats could not keep a lead Stephen Strasburg handed them but managed to beat the Philadelphia Phillies (42-52) in extras, 5-3.
Strasburg was not at his sharpest, but still managed a good showing. Curiously, through the game’s first three innings, he could not get an out with the bases empty. The Phillies went 3-for-3 with a walk with no runners on in the early going. But Strasburg locked down once he put them on, holding the Phillies to 1-for-8 with four strikeouts out of the stretch. He finally got into a groove in the fourth and fifth, setting down all six Phillies he faced in order.
Meanwhile, the Nats’ offense was scratching out runs against Cole Hamels. A single, a double, and a Jayson Werth groundout put the Nats on top 1-0. The bats fell silent in the middle innings, when the Nats were 1-for-13 with a walk. But after Anthony Rendon walked to open the sixth, Werth took his former teammate deep to give the Nats a three-run lead.
But Strasburg would give that back in the home half of the sixth. Ex-Nat Marlon Byrd singled home two runs to bring the Phillies’ deficit back to one. Strasburg would be pulled before the end of the inning in favor of Jerry Blevins, finishing with a line of 5.2 innings, seven hits, two earned runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts. Unless Johnny Cueto strikes out 16 batters tomorrow, Strasburg will enter the All-Star break as the NL strikeouts leader with 149. Of course, he will also not be an All-Star, like all of his teammates.
The Nationals made it through the seventh cleanly, but Tyler Clippard coughed the lead up in the eighth on a pair of hits and a walk, sending the game to extras. Surprisingly, Manager Matt Williams chose to pitch Ross Detwiler (W, whatever) in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. Williams famously mistrusted Detwiler in the early going, pitching him only in blowouts, but after he carried the team in their 16-inning game in Milwaukee, he seems to have escaped the doghouse. Detwiler delivered on the faith placed in him tonight, tossing a perfect inning against the top of the Philadelphia order.
A trip to extras was not so forgone, but the Nationals failed to capitalize on their opportunities to seize a regulation win. The Nats went 0-for-8 with runners on base in the seventh through ninth innings, and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position after the ninth.
Denard Span led off the tenth with a walk, and after Rendon lined out, Werth reached on a fielder’s choice that pushed Span to second. Adam LaRoche made it 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position with a strikeout, but Zimmerman snapped that streak with a single up the middle that drove Span home for a 4-3 lead. A wild pitch scored Werth to make it 5-3 during the next at-bat. Non-All-Star Rafael Soriano, whose ERA is 0.97 and WHIP is 0.81, recorded his 22nd save in 24 opportunities to close it out for the Nats and set up a rubber game at Citizens Bank Park tomorrow.