“He was playing the guessing game,” Hamels said. “He got me in that first at-bat. He had made me more aware, to be more careful with him. He’s been here. He’s seen me a ton. I’ve seen him a ton. It’s a serious guessing game and chess match we have between us. He’s a great hitter. You have to make great pitches to him. And even when you do, sometimes he’ll have hits.”
Hamels finally fed Werth a 3-2 fastball over the plate. Werth drilled it to right-center field, getting under it just enough. Center fielder Ben Revere chased it down a step in front of the warning track. The confrontation had been as evenly contested as pitcher-batter can be.
“Big-time battle,” Manuel said. “That’s what baseball is all about.”
The Phillies had taken control in the sixth. Revere and Jimmy Rollins poked consecutive singles to lead off the inning. All night, Jordan had squirmed out of jams with groundballs, inducing three double plays in the first five innings. Jordan threw Chase Utley another sinker, and he chopped it to the right side of the infield, another potential twin killing.
“That was perfect,” Jordan said. “What I wanted to do.”
LaRoche fielded the ball on a high hop and whipped a sidearm throw to Desmond at second. At worst, it seemed, the Nationals would still be tied at 1 with two runners on base and one out. And then Rollins veered into the line of LaRoche’s low throw, and it deflected off Rollins and rolled into shallow left field.
“That’s unbelievable baserunning,” Desmond said. “That’s really good wherewithal. There’s probably things that we could do differently, but at the same time, he did a very good job. That’s something that you don’t see from very many other players.”
Revere trotted home, Rollins scooted to third and Utley stood on first base. The Nationals trailed, 2-1, and the Phillies had runners on the corners with no outs.
The bullpen had remained dormant, and so Johnson had left himself no choice but to let Jordan pitch his way out of another jam. Craig Stammen began warming as pitching coach Steve McCatty trundled to the mound.
Jordan got cleanup hitter Domonic Brown to pop out to short, but Michael Young crunched a two-run double to right-center field. This time, Johnson walked to the mound and asked for the ball.
The Nationals had plenty of time left to score. Their offense had showed enough in recent games to provide hope. But it had also shown enough impotence to make another string of zeroes a distinct possibility.