Results tagged ‘ Steve Lombardozzi ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Excitement in the Air

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Hello everyone.

If you are reading this blog, chances are that I don’t have to remind you that Opening Day is less than a week away. I’m pumped up for the season to get started, and I know all of you Nats fans are also. During my nearly month-long stay in Viera, I spoke with hundreds of our fans. The common theme down there was unbridled enthusiasm.

Now I am back here in D.C. and the messaging is identical.

Is this is the most anticipated season in D.C. sports history? While this is not for me to say, I have to think it is at the very least on a short list.

  • Friday’s 2:05 p.m. exhibition game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park will feature a Jordan Zimmermann-Andy Pettitte pitching matchup. And here’s hoping that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s ankle allows him to play, not only Friday, but all season.
  • Interesting to hear that Davey plans to really split time behind the plate between Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. Both are wildly popular in the clubhouse and among the pitching staffs. I think Davey’s direction here tells us that he is quite confident in Wilson’s knee and overall fitness.
  • Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina represent perhaps the finest bench in MLB. I know that Davey views all four as talents capable of starting. And this does not include the backup catcher, Ramos or Suzuki.
  • If you have not picked up on this yet, … Micah Owings can really HIT. I really enjoyed getting to know Micah during spring training.
  • Gazing at the schedule, it is still strange to see that we’ll be hosting the Chicago White Sox for three games from April 9-11. I keep reminding myself that this new day and age of interleague play will take some getting used to. It will also be fun to see the Detroit Tigers visit D.C. for a two-game set, May 7-8.
  • More than a few fans mentioned they are pumped to see William Howard Taft (Bill) and Teddy interact. This historically fiery relationship is one to keep an eye on all summer. I understand there has been a lot of trash talking already between the two already. Best of luck to Bill on his upcoming racing debut.
  • I’d be remiss if I did not thank and wish Kristina Akra, formerly of MASN, all the best on her new career path. For those that do not know, Kristina recently accepted a new job with the MLB Network. She will thrive there, but at the same time, her warm smile and enthusiasm will be missed here with the ballclub.
  • Sports Illustrated, one of the preeminent publications in our industry, came out today with their prediction of the Nationals as World Series favorites. While I’m thrilled about their optimism, as well as that of all others (like ESPN The Magazine) who have tabbed us to be successful this year, I know there is much work to be done before we get to any of that. So I’ll just echo Davey’s remarks today: “It’s better than being picked to come in last!”

See you all on Friday…

Depth, Charging

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Before Monday night’s Nationals-Mets tilt in Port St. Lucie – the second between the two clubs in the same location in just over 48 hours – skipper Davey Johnson mused aloud that teams with good Minor League depth often posted strong Spring Training records. If the game itself was any indication, Johnson, who relishes the opportunity to see such players in person, must have liked what he saw.

Led by a bevy of rising stars, the Nationals impressed at the plate and on the mound as they notched their first Grapefruit League win, by a 6-4 final.

Karns impressed in his first action against Major League hitters.

Karns impressed in his first action against Major League hitters.

The logic behind Johnson’s reasoning stemmed from the heavy innings that non-regulars log during the Grapefruit League season, and never was that circumstance more on display for the Nats. With a starting nine featuring just one 2012 Opening Day roster member in Steve Lombardozzi (plus Gio Gonzalez pitching), Washington’s youngsters peppered New York pitchers all around Tradition Field to the tune of 17 hits in a victory that was never as close as the final score indicated.

Outfielder Eury Perez leaned on his strongest tool – his speed – to accumulate a trio of infield singles and a stolen base, scoring from first on a double in the third and from second on a single in the fourth. Anthony Rendon, vying for a home run for the second straight day, was robbed of a longball at the center field fence, but later lined a seed the opposite way for a single. Eight of the nine starters pitched in hits, with Nationals 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole demolishing a double to the wall in right-center in his first at-bat.

On the mound, Skole’s counterpart Nathan Karns – Washington’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year – turned in perhaps the most noteworthy performance. Following two hitless innings from Gonzalez in his first spring start, Karns fanned Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and top Mets prospect Travis d’Arnaud, allowing only a David Wright flare single over two scoreless innings.

“He’s got a great future,” said Johnson of Karns, whom he saw live in game action for the first time Monday night. “He had an explosive fastball, threw first pitch strikes. Very impressive for the young man.”

Rendon continued to turn heads with his play.

Rendon continued to turn heads with his play.

Karns overthrew a couple of curveballs early, but settled in and spun a beauty to put away d’Arnaud. He attributed the early inconsistency on the pressure of facing Major Leaguers for the first time.

“Yeah, I was a little nervous in the ‘pen, I’m not going to lie,” Karns said of the experience, but he took Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty’s advice between innings. “Breathe, breathe. I guess I was a little red in the face, a little sweaty.”

Karns’ stuff played just fine, his fastball sitting 93-96 with great life. When asked if that was a normal velocity range, he was non-committal, but referenced his offseason conditioning program.

“I was around there last year,” he said of his fastball velocity. “This year I felt like I did a lot in the offseason to strengthen my lower body, give me some more endurance. So if I get a couple more ticks on the radar, that’s a bonus.”

One veteran in the clubhouse within earshot took notice.

“A couple more ticks?” interrupted Ryan Mattheus, who earned the save with a scoreless ninth, incredulously from the corner of the clubhouse. “What do you want, to throw 105?”

The radar gun at Tradition Field actually misfired and flashed 143 miles-per-hour after one high fastball out of the 25-year-old’s right hand.

“Yeah, I can say I threw 143,” Karns said nonchalantly.

It’ll be a story for the grandkids.

The Nationals hit the road again Tuesday afternoon, where they will face the division-rival Braves for the first time this spring at 1:05 p.m. in Lake Buena Vista.

Record: 1-1-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

Top Prospecting

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Top Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon showed impressive gap-to-gap power last spring in Viera, but hit just six home runs over 133 at-bats in an injury-plagued 2012.. Since his arrival in camp this year, though, the ball has been jumping off Rendon’s bat more, as was evidenced by a home run he hit in batting practice prior to Sunday’s contest at Space Coast Stadium– a moonshot that that ricocheted off the base of the scoreboard, a solid 40-50 feet up the berm behind the left field wall. Just a few hours later, he showcased that power again, off a legitimate Major League reliever in Miami’s Ryan Webb.

With the wind blowing out to left in the fifth inning – following a rain delay of over an hour – Rendon hit an opposite-field shot out to right-center field, plating Steve Lombardozzi to give Washington a 2-1 lead. It was the only run-scoring hit of the day for either team, as both Marlins tallies came via RBI-groundouts in the top of the third and ninth in a 2-2, 10-inning draw.

Rendon's two-run blast accounted for all of Washington's scoring Sunday.

Rendon’s two-run blast accounted for all of Washington’s scoring Sunday.

Rendon was the only member of the Nationals starting lineup not to be pulled during the delay, as both he and manager Davey Johnson wanted the young prospect to have another opportunity at the plate.

“I told him I wanted him to have one more at-bat and he said ‘I want one more at-bat,’” explained the skipper. “He certainly made it count.”

Johnson went on to stress that Rendon is all-but Major League ready, needing just repetitions and an opening on the roster to play in Washington.

Injuries have sidetracked what appeared to be an express lane path to the Major Leagues for Rendon. The Rice University product broke his ankle in just the second game of the season last year, costing him the first half of his year. After rehab, he became the most well-traveled man in the system, making stops with the GCL Nationals, Short-Season Auburn, High-A Potomac, and Double-A Harrisburg, finally culminating his campaign with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Davey Johnson says all Rendon needs is repetitions and a chance to play.

Davey Johnson says all Rendon needs is repetitions and a chance to play.

Entering the season as the top-rated prospect in the system according to Baseball America, MLB.com and every other major outlet assigned to such rankings, the pieces are finally coming together for the 22-year-old considered by many to have the top bat in the 2011 Draft.

“I’ve had the same approach for a while now, I guess it’s just clicking,” said Rendon of his health and his improved power, especially to the opposite field. “That’s a good thing.”

Yes, yes it is.

The Nationals travel back to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets for the second time in three days tonight at 6:10 p.m., and will once again be televised live on MLB Network. Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to make his first start of the year for the Nats, who are searching for their first Grapefruit League victory.

Here are Washington’s spring results to date:

Record: 0-1-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

Game On

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Believe it or not, Spring Training games begin tomorrow.

That’s right, in less than 24 hours, the Nationals will begin their Grapefruit League season with a 12:10 p.m. start at Digital Domain Park, the spring home of the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie. And the man slated to start that game on the mound for the Nationals? None other than Stephen Strasburg.

The lineup for hte first Spring Training game, Saturday in Port St. Lucie.

The lineup for hte first Spring Training game, Saturday in Port St. Lucie.

“It’s been a good spring so far, and I’m ready to play games,” said Davey Johnson from his office Friday. “I think they are too.”

The Mets will piggyback new acquisition Shaun Marcum and promising prospect Zack Wheeler (rated eighth overall by MLB.com and 11th by Baseball America), looking to break camp with the team for the first time. The game will be televised nationally on MLB Network, the first game of the spring to get the royal treatment.

As is the usual custom for road games in Spring Training, especially early in camp, when the Major League-side clubhouse is still crowded, there will be few regular position players making the trek south to Port St. Lucie. The only projected members of the Opening Day lineup (other than Strasburg, possibly) slated for the trip are Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Denard Span, who will be joined by Goon Squaders Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy.

That will give minor leaguers like Anthony Rendon, Matt Skole and Zach Walters a chance to shine in the spotlight. Catchers Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado, Chris Snyder and Jhonatan Solano, infielders Chris Marrero, Micah Owings, Will Rhymes, and Carlos Rivero, and outfielders Corey Brown and Eury Perez will also make the trip.

The pitchers in the fold behind Strasburg include Craig Stammen, 40-man roster members Cole Kimball and Erik Davis, and NRI’s Fernando Abad, Bill Bray and Pat McCoy. Stay tuned to the Nationals on Twitter for updates live from Florida throughout day.

The Next Four Years

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Here at Curly W Live, we rarely – if ever – discuss politics, despite residing at the epicenter of our nation’s government. We’re far more likely to engage with you in a debate on the latest exploits of George, Tom, Abe or Teddy than any sitting President. But as The District and the country as a whole catches its collective breath following Inauguration Weekend, there is no time better than the present to take inventory of the transformation of our national pastime here in the Nation’s Capital since the last inauguration.

Four years ago, a 23-year-old Gio Gonzalez had just been traded – from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. Stephen Strasburg was halfway through his junior year at San Diego State. And a 16-year-old Bryce Harper had enrolled at Southern Nevada College, but had yet to see a pitch from anyone other than a high schooler.

In 2012, the Postseason went from a distant fantasy to a tangible reality.

In 2012, the Postseason went from a distant fantasy to a tangible reality.

My, how far we’ve come.

The Nationals became the first team to add 10 or more wins in three consecutive seasons over a span that did not include any strike-shortened campaigns. Coming off their 59 victories in 2009, they improved to 69 in 2010, 80 in 2011 and a Major League-best 98 last year.

Given the previous franchise high-water mark of 81-81 during their inaugural campaign, any winning season at all in 2012 would have marked the best in the franchise’s annals. Needless to say, the Nationals exceeded everyone’s projections, except perhaps for skipper Davey Johnson, who guaranteed a playoff berth all the way back in Spring Training.

But the past was all about potential. The present and future are about raised expectations.

Rafael Soriano is the latest addition to an already formidable Nationals club.

Rafael Soriano is the latest addition to an already formidable Nationals club.

Now, Washington has added defensive wizard and leadoff man Denard Span, the most tested, capable fifth starter in the league in Dan Haren, and one of the game’s premier closers in Rafael Soriano. One could make the argument that each of the Nationals units – the starting rotation, bullpen, catching corps, infield, outfield and bench – rank among the best in the game.

Johnson returns for his second term with a core group of rising stars, many of which are just entering their prime. In fact, 10 players – Danny Espinosa, Gonzalez, Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann – are under team control through at least 2016: four more years.

The last four years of Nationals baseball have brought plenty of change. The next four promise an equal amount of hope.

But whether you identify as red or blue, as long as you’re rocking the Curly W, you’re wearing our colors. And regardless of your interest or involvement in politics, everyone can agree on one self-evident truth: with pitchers and catchers reporting for the 2013 season in just 20 days, it’s good to be a Washington Nationals fan.

The Top 10 List

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Earlier today, Baseball America unveiled its annual Top 10 Prospect List for the Washington Nationals heading into the 2013 season. There has been a lot of movement since last season, with only four of last year’s prospects returning to the list. The reason for this is two-fold: some names, like Bryce Harper and Steve Lombardozzi, have become fixtures at the Major League level, while others have been traded in deals for the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span, making the Nationals imminently more competitive in the present. In both senses, the farm system has done its job. But that hardly means it is now bereft of top-level talent.

The complete list, along with more information on each player, is listed below. We have already covered a good number of the prospects in our Down on the Farm reports this past season, and will pick up the rest during the 2013 campaign.

1. Anthony Rendon – INF | Last Year: 2

Considered by many to be the top bat in the 2011 Draft, the Nats snagged Rendon with the sixth overall pick. After dealing with an early-season injury, the Rice University product rebounded for a strong season, moving quickly through the system and finishing in the Arizona Fall League.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

2. Lucas Giolito – RHP | Last Year: N/A

Taken with the 16th overall selection, the Nationals went for upside with Giolito, who showcased some of the best raw talent of any hurler in his draft class. Though he missed the end of his senior year of high school with an injury and has since had offseason surgery, Mike Rizzo and company are very high on the young pitcher, as are industry insiders like ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DRAFT REPORT -

3. Brian Goodwin – OF | Last Year: 5

Another fast riser through the system, Goodwin crushed the South Atlantic League in the first half of his inaugural pro campaign to earn a two-level promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. He joined Rendon in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game, where he homered as part of a 2-for-5 performance.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

4. Matt Skole – INF | Last Year: 21

Skole opened eyes in his first full professional season. The Georgia Tech product clobbered 27 home runs in just 101 games at Low-A Hagerstown to earn South Atlantic League player of the year, even with a late-season promotion to Potomac. He showed tremendous patience, batting a combined .291/.426/.559, collecting 99 walks and 104 RBI. But despite the impressive display of power and run production, the biggest accolades for Skole within the organization came from as a result of his huge strides forward on defense at third base. That earned him Nationals Minor League Player of the Year honors.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

5. Nathan Karns – RHP | Last Year: N/A

The highest mover from last year’s list (from being unranked in a group that runs 30 deep), Karns improved upon an encouraging 2011 season by lowering his walk rate and increasing his strikeouts, yielding tremendous results. He fanned 148 batters in just 116.0 innings, winning 11 games over two levels en route to the Nationals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

6. Christian Garcia – RHP | Last Year: N/A

It seems that on every team, every year, there is a surprise Minor Leaguer who breaks out and makes the big leagues as a September call-up. Garcia was that surprise this year, though his talent was well documented. Fully recovered from a second Tommy John surgery, the righty flashed a high-90s fastball and devastating slider to a 0.86 ERA with 66 strikeouts in just 52.1 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. He impressed enough in his debut to earn a spot on the playoff roster, and will likely have an impact as a member of the Nationals pitching staff.

- READ OUR 2012 PLAYER REVIEW -

7. Eury Perez – OF | Last Year: 22

A September call-up like Garcia, Perez was primarily used as a pinch-runner in the Majors in 2012, where the Nationals took advantage of his blazing speed. He actually posted better numbers in Triple-A than at Double-A last season, combining for a .314/.344/.361 line and 51 steals between three stops in the minors. Perez will still be just 22 on Opening Day, and will be in Major League camp come Spring Training.

8. Sammy Solis – LHP | Last Year: 8

Taken by the Nationals in the second round out of the University of San Diego back in 2010, Solis missed the 2012 season due to injury. Washington has high hopes for the lefty, who is on track to be fully healthy by spring after posting an 8-3 mark with a 3.13 ERA in 17 A-ball starts back in 2011.

9. Matt Purke – LHP | Last Year: 7

A third-round selection out of TCU in 2011, Purke made just three starts at Hagerstown this year before being shut down. The 6’4”, 205-pound lefty pitched well in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and got some time against Major Leaguers in Spring Training this past season. With at least two plus pitches, Purke will be worth keeping an eye on this year.

10. Zach Walters – INF | Last Year: 19

Walters was the return chip from the Jason Marquis trade in 2011 and has proven to be a consistent, heady player as he has moved through the system. With his athletic, strong body and a plus arm, he’s a switch-hitter whose solid defense profiles across the infield. He reached Triple-A by the end of 2012 and, at just 23 years of age, seems to have a bright future ahead.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

2012 Player Review: Steve Lombardozzi

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today we take a closer look at another of Washington’s impressive rookies, Steve Lombardozzi.

While Bryce Harper captured the lion’s share of attention among Nationals rookies in 2012, there were a number of other first-year players who left an indelible mark on the campaign. One such player was Steve Lombardozzi, who as a 23 year-old broke camp with the big league club for the first time, following a September call-up the year prior.

Lombardozzi proved he belonged in the Major Leagues and became a crucial part of the Goon Squad.

Lombardozzi proved he belonged in the Major Leagues and became a crucial part of the Goon Squad.

Primarily a middle infielder, the Nationals called upon the Fulton, Maryland native to fill a number of roles early in the season when injuries had left the club short-handed. He played both left field and third base on multiple occasions in April and May, sparking the team when he got his opportunities. In his first home start of the year on April 16, he notched a career-high four hits and drove home the game-winning RBI in a 6-3 win over Houston. Lombardozzi also had three hits in each of the two wins over the Phillies during NATITUDE Weekend.

The former 19th round draft pick proved to be a huge part of the Nationals success. He batted .348/.392/.435 over 23 games in the month of May, when Washington leaned on him the most. But Lombardozzi really made his mark and secured his spot on the squad by posting a .308/.379/.385 line as a pinch-hitter as part of the Goon Squad. Factor in his defensive versatility, and he afforded Davey Johnson a myriad of options in late-game situations.

Lombardozzi’s impact in 2012 did not end in October, though. He teamed up with his dad – a former big leaguer himself – to spearhead Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Through their hard work, the affectionately nicknamed “Lombo Combo” collected and donated 27,784 pounds of food and supplies to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

A local boy made good, Lombardozzi quickly grew into a fan favorite this year. He will not become arbitration eligible until 2015 and remains under team control through the 2017 season.

- SEE ALL OUR 2012 PLAYER REVIEWS -

Top 12 of ‘12: #6 – Beast of a Comeback

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Top126Near the end of July, the Nationals entered the Sunday finale of a four-game set in Milwaukee looking to win the series and wrap up a 6-1 road trip before heading home to face the rival Phillies. Things looked up as Steve Lombardozzi blasted the fifth pitch of the game – a 3-1 fastball from Milwaukee starter Mark Rogers – into the seats for an early lead. But the Brewers responded with two runs of their own in the first and led 3-1 heading to the sixth inning. From there, they seemed to answer every Nationals rally. Washington scored once in the sixth and seventh, but Milwaukee answered with two runs in each frame to build a 7-3 advantage. The Nationals roared back with four in the top of the eighth to tie the game, only to watch the Brewers score twice to take a 9-7 lead entering the ninth.

With one out in the top of the ninth, Mark DeRosa drew a walk to bring Michael Morse to the plate as the tying run. Brewers closer John Axford quickly got ahead 0-2, but when he tried to sneak a fastball over the outside corner, Morse reached out and belted it the other way down the line in right, just clearing the wall inside the foul pole for a game-tying, two-run home run. Thanks to 2.1 hitless innings of relief from Craig Stammen, the contest remained knotted at 9-9 into the top of the 11th, when Bryce Harper walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled, bringing up Morse once more. “The Beast” fell behind in the count again before hooking a 1-2 breaking ball down the left field line into the corner, scoring Harper easily and Zimmerman on a slide just ahead of the relay throw from shallow left field, pushing Washington in front, 11-9. Tyler Clippard hung on for the save in the bottom of the frame and the Nationals escaped the biggest roller coaster ride of the 2012 campaign with another Curly W in the books.

- SEE THE REST OF THE TOP 12 OF ’12 -

Top 12 of ’12: #11 – Old School Walk-off

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Top1211When the Nationals and Giants matched up in early July in the Nation’s Capital, the series promised to be a stiff test for Washington, facing San Francisco pitchers Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. But after dispatching the first two, handing each their worst loss of the season, the Nationals needed only to beat Cain – who had thrown a perfect game just four starts earlier – to complete the sweep. The teams both donned 1924-era jerseys that night, the fifth of July, in commemoration of the 1924 World Series between Washington and the then-New York Giants, which the Senators had won in dramatic fashion, erasing a late deficit and eventually taking the series in the bottom of the 12th of Game 7.

Cain was in command, as the Giants built a 5-1 advantage entering the bottom of the seventh. But Washington began chipping away, riding back-to-back solo shots from Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa and a two-out, RBI-double from Bryce Harper in the seventh to cut the deficit to a single run. The score remained 5-4 until the rookie brigade took over in the ninth, with Tyler Moore doubling, Steve Lombardozzi laying down a sacrifice and reaching on an ensuing error, and Harper coming through again with an RBI-single to tie it up. After an intentional walk and a force at home, Adam LaRoche batted with the bases loaded and one out. He chopped a ball towards the hole at second, where Ryan Theriot fielded the ball and threw to second base for the force out. Brandon Crawford tried to relay the ball to first base to complete the double play, but his throw short-hopped Brandon Belt at first and got away, as Harper crossed the plate with the winning run. Just like 1924, Washington had come from behind for a thrilling, walk-off win.

Moment #12 – Ramos Flies

Top 12 Of ‘12: #12 – Ramos Flies

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Top1212With months’ worth of build up and anticipation leading into NATITUDE Weekend, Nationals fans were ready to explode with enthusiasm. And despite the Nats hot start and the Phillies slumping out of the gates, the two teams were separated by just 4.5 games entering their first matchup of the 2012 season on May 4. The opening game of the series saw Washington fall behind twice by two runs, but the hometown nine battled back with single tallies in the sixth and eighth innings to tie the game at three runs apiece, eventually forcing extra innings.

The game remained tied into the bottom of the 11th when, with two out, Steve Lombardozzi singled. Bryce Harper then worked the count full, eventually drawing a walk, and Jayson Werth took a free pass as well to load the bases for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. Down to his final reserve player on the bench, Davey Johnson took the gamble and pinch-hit Wilson Ramos, who fell into a 1-2 hole against Phillies reliever Michael Schwimmer. The right-handed pitcher tried to throw a slider off the plate away, but the Washington backstop reached out and served it into center field, Lombadozzi racing home with the winning run. As Ramos cruised up the first base line, he turned his outstretched arms into wings, carrying the Nationals to an epic, walk-off win.

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