“A lot of places to start in this one,” Manager Davey Johnson said afterward, collapsing into a chair. Thirty-players appeared, but only three umpires after crew chief Joe West came down sick. Strasburg allowed his first homer in almost two years, then allowed another three hitters later. Harper went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and three walks, including a crucial free pass in the 11th. The Nationals left 14 men on base. “That’s a crazy game,” Jayson Werth said.
When it ended, the Nationals (17-9) had their ninth one-run victory of the season and their fifth-walk off win. Going back to last year, the Nationals have won six consecutive games against the Phillies, and are 41
2 games clear of them in this year’s National League East standings.
“They kind of have a bigger feeling when you’re playing the Phillies,” Johnson said. “I felt they were the best team in baseball last year. To come in and beat them the first time in our house . . . it was a big game for us, and I’m sure the Phillies felt the same way, because we’re sitting on top.”
It took until an hour before midnight, when the Nationals had one out left and the bases empty in the 11th, to complete a comeback from down 3-1. Lombardozzi, the rookie forced into playing third with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, rolled a two-out single into right off Fairfax native Michael Schwimer. Up came Harper, who had led off the ninth with a strikeout against Schwimer, chasing a slider.
Harper took a wicked hack at the first pitch and fouled it back. He smoked the next down the first base line, just foul. Down 0-2, he spit on the next three pitches, a high fastball and two sliders in the dirt. Schwimer tried one more slider outside, and Harper refused to bite. Even in the biggest moments, he will not cave. He’ll take the walk.
“He knows the game,” Werth said. “He has a pretty good feel for the game, I feel like. He manages to stay calm and within himself. It’s impressive.”
Werth, who had left five men on base in his first two at-bats, drew a clutch walk of his own. Up came Ramos.
Ramos started the game on the bench, which for a catcher usually means a night off. Johnson is loath to use his second catcher, risking a position player — Lombardozzi, in the Nationals’ case — entering the game behind the plate in case of injury. Ramos ate sunflower seeds and chatted with teammates.