The Nationals’ 8-5 victory over the Phillies belonged to Jayson Werth, but the key moments and important contributors came bursting out of the box score, starting with Taylor Jordan.
First off, the innings-limited Jordan will receive at least one more start before the Nationals shut him down for the season. Manager Davey Johnson said Ross Ohlendorf will need another minor league rehab start after he threw 63 pitches over three innings, and Jordan looked sharp enough to warrant another turn in the rotation.
The Nationals are capping Jordan’s season at 155 innings at most because he underwent Tommy John surgery two years ago. Jordan reached 136 innings between the majors and the minors after he allowed the Phillies to score four runs over five innings, raising his major league ERA to 4.14.
“Physically the season’s wearing a little bit, but I’m still able to keep the ball down for the most part,” Jordan said. “Everything’s still there.”
Jordan helped the Nationals win with his resilience. In the second inning, Jordan threw a first-pitch four-seamer to Darin Ruf that he didn’t follow through on, which caused the ball to tail toward Ruf and over the plate. Ruf crushed it for a two-run homer. The Phillies would add another run on three batted balls that didn’t leave the infield. After Jimmy Rollins’s RBI single, Jordan trailed 4-0.
But Jordan never panicked. He kept inducing groundballs and pumping strikes, and he didn’t allow the Phillies another run. He fell into a hole, but he also gave his offense a chance to come back.
“I didn’t really change anything,” Jordan said. “I’m still out there whether or not I gave up four runs. So just don’t let them get the fifth. You’ve just got to keep on trying. It doesn’t matter how many runs you’ve given up — as long as I’m still out there, I don’t want them to get one more.”
Jordan handed the ball off to Tanner Roark, who validated his impressive major league debut. Called up Tuesday to serve as the Nationals’ long reliever, Roark retired all six hitters he faced on just 12 pitches. In his first four innings, Roark has allowed one hit and no walks. This time, it earned him his first career win.
“Um, yeah, I realized it,” Roark said. “Most important, we got the win. The team got the win. We got a two-win streak, so let’s keep it going.”
Afterward, the game ball rested in Roark’s locker. He planned to send it back to his parents, Toby and Jodi, back home in Illinois.
For Roark to get the win, the Nationals needed to burst out in the seventh. Werth sent the Nationals ahead, but Bryce Harper’s bunt tied it. And before Harper’s bunt, Steve Lombardozzi had to get to third base.
Lombardozzi led off the seventh with a pinch-hit walk off Jake Diekman, a nasty left-hander. He moved to second on Denard Span’s sac bunt. He knew the Nationals had timed Diekman’s delivery from the stretch at 1.7 seconds. He studied Diekman as he went to a 2-0 count on Ryan Zimmerman, and then he bolted. Lombardozzi slid in head first, ahead of Carlos Ruiz’s throw.
Up came Harper, who was hitting .174 against left-handed pitchers this season in 86 at-bats. Manager Davey Johnson attributed the struggles to a small sample size and to Harper’s youth. (Let’s not forget how impressive it is that Harper is also OPS-ing 1.030 against right-handed pitchers at age 20.)
With Diekman on the mound and the double play a possibility with runners on the corners, Johnson called for a safety squeeze bunt. Harper would try to bring home Lombardozzi from third, but he didn’t have to offer at a ball.
“I love it,” Harper said. “I think that’s great. Being able to get a run in and being able to tie things up for J-Dub was something we needed to do. Getting something and laying it down was very crucial in that situation.”
Harper laid off Diekman’s first-pitch ball. With the count in Harper’s favor, Johnson took the squeeze play off. Diekman threw Harper a slider that tumbled out of the zone, and Harper took an ugly hack. With the count 1-1, Harper saw third base coach Trent Jewett flash the safety squeeze sign again. Diekman threw another slider.
“He hung a slider, so it kind of caught me off-guard a little bit,” Harper said. “I think if it was a fastball, it would’ve gone straight into the ground, because he has pretty good two-seam action on his fastball. The slider, I tried to hit it into right field, it looked like.”
The ball popped up toward second base, but it hit the turf a few feet in front of Chase Utley. Lombardozzi scurried home with the tying run.
Later, a reporter asked Werth how he would grade Harper’s bunt.
“S for surprising,” Werth said. “But it worked out. The last thing you want to do right there is hit into a double play. Sometimes, first and third with one out and the game on the line like that, a bunt’s a good play if it works out. But a guy like Bryce, you want to see Bryce swing the bat. But when the guy he’s facing is a nasty lefty … Charlie Manuel would always talk about being creative in the moment. Bryce was definitely creative in the moment right there. It worked out. And we got the win, which is the most important thing.”
They won after Werth blasted a two-run homer and Anthony Rendon capped a five-run inning with a two-RBI single. Jordan watched it all unfold from the trainer’s room.
“Everyone was in there clapping and all that,” Jordan said. “I wanted to go the dugout, congratulate and all that. But I didn’t want to ruin anything, so I just stayed in the training room and watched from there. But it was definitely cool.”