Sep 3, 2013, 10:44 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: This won’t go down as the prettiest game the Nationals have played this season. But it’s a win, and at this point that’s the only thing that matters. Gio Gonzalez battled wildness (three walks, two wild pitches) and poor defense behind him (three errors). Wilson Ramos, starting his 12th consecutive game behind the plate, clubbed a 3-run homer. Corey Brown later added a solo blast in his first big-league at-bat of the season. In between, the Nationals took advantage of nine walks, five wild pitches and a balk by Phillies pitchers. They tried to make things interesting but ultimately hung on and won a game they had to win after the Reds also were victorious, 1-0 over the Cardinals. Thus the deficit in the NL Wild Card race remains 7 1/2 games with only 24 to play.
Hitting highlight: Can the Nationals’ hitting highlight actually be the Phillies’ pitching lowlight? On this night, yes. The Nats scored two runs in the top of the fifth, but all they had to do was stand in the batter’s box and keep the bat on their shoulder. Phillies pitchers issued four walks in the inning, including three in a row, two of them with the bases loaded, each on four pitches. Sure, it required some semblance of patience by the Nationals lineup. But let’s not give them too much credit here.
Pitching lowlight: Though he pitched well enough to qualify for the win, Gonzalez would be the first to admit he didn’t pitch well. The left-hander was all over the place, piling up his pitch count early and forcing himself to battle all night. True, four of the five runs he allowed were unearned, but he had opportunities to stop the bleeding himself and couldn’t do it. Davey Johnson left Gonzalez in as long as he could, but with his pitch count at 118 after only 5 2/3 innings, the skipper finally decided he had seen enough.
Key stat: Over his last 34 games, Denard Span has hit .338, raising his season batting average from .258 to .278.
Up next: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound for the Nationals in search of his league-leading 16th win. Roy Halladay, trying to salvage an injury-plagued season, starts for the Phillies.
NL EAST STANDINGS
WED: Nats at Rockies, 3:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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