WASHINGTON (AP) -- The game started 102 minutes late because of
rain, then lasted 12 innings. It was past midnight when the 13th
pitcher took the mound.
Pinch-hitter Robert Fick, the last position player available on
Washington's bench, singled home the winning run in the bottom of
the 12th Friday night for a 9-8 victory, capping a wild game that
saw the Nationals blow a four-run lead and the Phillies falter
after a five-run seventh.
"That would have been a bad one to lose," Nationals third
baseman Ryan Zimmerman said with eyes half-shut -- as if he were
about to fall asleep standing at his locker. "Games like that, you
want to win because you played so good for so long. You really need
to win those games."
The Nationals used 21 players to keep their status as the
hottest team in baseball. They have won eight of nine and are a
major league-best 16-6 since May 18.
"It just shows where this team is right now. They hung tough,"
Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "They didn't hang their
hands. The pitching responded, and then Fick -- last man standing --
Fick's one-out hit to right field scored Marlon Byrd, who beat
the throw from Bobby Abreu, sliding into catcher Sal Fasano just
before the ball arrived. Chad Cordero (2-1) pitched two perfect
innings for the victory, following a perfect three innings from
rookie Bill Bray.
Clay Condrey (1-1) took the loss for the Phillies, who have lost
two in a row after winning four straight.
"When you play that long and you lose, it's not good," manager
Charlie Manuel said. "It's definitely a downer, but at the same
time we've got to bounce back tomorrow."
Manuel should have said "today" or, better yet, "in a few
hours." The teams were to meet again Saturday in an afternoon
Byrd led off the 12th with a double down the right field line,
but Damian Jackson struck out trying to bunt him over. Alfonso
Soriano was intentionally walked, his best moment at the plate on a
night in which he went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and left nine
men on base.
That brought up Fick, who provided the long-awaited finish to a
game already delayed by weather and fraught with blown
opportunities. Things seemed securely in the Nationals' hands after
Philadelphia starter Brett Myers struggled through his worst outing
of the season. Then it swung the Phillies' way when Chase Utley and
Pat Burrell homered in the seventh. It then settled into stalemate
mode after Washington tied the scored in the bottom of the seventh.
The game's first run was a product of the wet field. Right
fielder Marlon Anderson slipped while backing up center fielder
Byrd on a bloop hit, turning Burrell's single into an RBI double
for the Phillies.
Philadelphia got two in the first, but the Nationals came back
with three in the second by getting their first five men on base
with the help of an error and a horribly misplayed ball by Abreu.
Abreu stood waiting to catch Zimmerman's deep line drive, then
watched it sail well over his head for an RBI double. Third baseman
David Bell booted a routine grounder three batters later.
Ryan Howard tied the game at 3 in the third with his 22nd home
run, an opposite field drive to left, but the Nationals added three
more in the bottom of the inning on two sacrifice flies sandwiched
around a single by Schneider.
Myers, who had thrown at least five innings in his previous 12
starts this season, lasted only three this time. He had not allowed
more than three earned runs in an outing, but his line Friday night
included six earned runs and seven hits.
But Washington relievers Jon Rauch, Mike Stanton and Gary
Majewski couldn't hold a 7-3 lead in the seventh. Pinch-hitter
Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins singled to chase Rauch, then
Utley took the first pitch from fellow lefty Stanton deep for his
12th home run.
Abreu followed with a single. Stanton gave way to Majewski,
whose 2-2 pitch ended up clanging into the yellow foul pole down
the left field line for Burrell's 15th homer.
But the Nationals weren't done. Pinch-hitter Brendan Harris
singled off Rheal Cormier to score Schneider in the bottom of the
seventh, tying the game at 8. It was Harris' first RBI since May
Zimmerman, Nick Johnson and Brian Schneider each had three
hits for the Nationals. Utley and Burrell had three hits apiece for
the Phillies. ... You can tell the World Cup is under way. Both
clubhouses had Poland vs. Ecuador on the TV before the game, and
the players who know soccer were doing their best to help the
uninitiated. "Brazil is like the Yankees in soccer," Victorino
said to teammates packed on the sofa in front of the screen.