Washington Nationals beat Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- No matter how often the Philadelphia Phillies assert their superiority over the Washington Nationals, there is still one thing the Nationals have that the Phillies do not. And all of a sudden, with one out in the eighth inning, there he was: Ryan Zimmerman, no longer a spectator, but a horror-movie monster brought to life, walking with his bat over his shoulder from the on-deck circle to the batter's box.

Zimmerman planned to play Thursday only if the Nationals needed him, and trailing by one with a runner on, they decided they did. With one swing, Zimmerman made everything okay. Zimmerman's go-ahead, two-run, pinch-hit home run sent the Nationals to a 7-5 victory at Citizens Bank Park, added to his litany of clutch moments and righted the Nationals' season. Zimmerman came off the bench, not having played since Saturday, and lined the second pitch he saw from reliever Danys Báez to right, where it clanged off the railing on top of the wall and dropped into the stands.

As Zimmerman jogged around the bases and pumped his fist, the aching left hamstring that held him out of three full games felt just fine.

"I could have ran 100 miles per hour right there," Zimmerman said.

Some of his younger Nationals teammates giggled in the dugout, starting at one another, their jaws held open. The home run joined the most dramatic at-bats of Zimmerman's career, a rung below the walk-off home run he smashed to beat the New York Yankees at RFK Stadium in his rookie season and the game-winning shot he blasted to christen Nationals Park.

"What else can you say?" starter Scott Olsen said. "Franchise did it again."

On Thursday, Zimmerman's out-of-nowhere homer served as the centerpiece for several defining performances. Olsen made a gutsy debut start. Adam Dunn launched his first home run of the season, a solo blast that brought the Nationals within a run three hitters before Zimmerman batted. Closer Matt Capps locked down the win with a high-wire, five-out save, the first of more than one inning in his career. Iván Rodríguez -- the 38-year-old catcher batting .407 -- flared a two-RBI single in the top of the ninth to provide breathing room.

As he usually is for the Nationals, Zimmerman was the catalyst. Before the game, frustration had started to wear on him. Since Sunday, he had watched games from the railing of the Nationals dugout, sometimes going back to the clubhouse. He established a goal: "Try not to eat every inning," he said.

On Thursday, he watched as Olsen operated with efficiency and, really, an audacity lacking from most every other Nationals pitcher. Chase Utley launched a solo home run off of Olsen in the first inning, which gave Utley his fourth of the series. But Olsen did not waver, allowing four runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

By the sixth, Olsen had allowed only three hits. But then he found trouble. He loaded the bases on a single and two walks, and Juan Castro broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run single to right.

Olsen handed the ball to Riggleman and walked off the field, saying something as he passed home plate umpire Joe West. Once in the dugout, Olsen slammed his glove on the bench and spiked his hat on the ground. Zimmerman patted him on the back.

The Nationals fell behind 4-1 when Tyler Clippard walked in a run.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company