“It was one of those calculated risks there,” Zimmerman said. “If I make it, it helps us. I wasn’t trying to get out, but if we get out, he’s leading off against a righty and has a lot better chance to do some damage.”
On Horst’s first move, Zimmerman bolted. Kratz threw a bullet, on the inside of the second base bag. “If he puts it anywhere other than where he puts it, I’m probably safe,” Zimmerman said. Instead, he was out. And then LaRoche popped out to start the ninth.
The Nationals would never take back the lead after Jackson, given a small margin for error, lost it. Rollins led off the game with a drive to the warning track in right, which Harper caught with his heels against the fence. In the third, he sent a fastball into the upper deck above the Nationals’ bullpen.
Rollins drilled another home run in the fifth, into the seats beyond the right field fence. The blast tied the game at 2, a score that did not last even one pitch. Jackson threw Nate Schierholtz a first-pitch, 94-mph fastball, and he slammed it over the right field fence, too. On two pitches, the Phillies took a 3-2 lead.
Rollins and Schierholtz had clobbered the pitches with such assuredness that Jackson thought he may have been tipping pitches. After he watched the film, he realized he had just thrown meatballs.
“Pretty much all three pitches were in the same spot,” Jackson said. “Just balls up in the zone that he could get under and get some air under. Throw it down, it could be different results. But you get balls up in the zone and they’re looking heaters, it’s not too hard for them to put them out.”
Michael Gonzalez provided a stabilizing relief appearance in the middle of the game. He relieved Jackson with Rollins on first base after a walk and two outs in the sixth inning. He retired four consecutive batters, striking out three of them, to keep the Nationals within one run. Ryan Mattheus bounced back from his three-homer disaster in Milwaukee with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
The bullpen gave the Nationals’ offense a chance, an opportunity for more magic. For one night, it wasn’t there. “That,” Johnson said, “was a weird one.”