Phils fall in 11 after 'pen can't protect late lead

Phils fall in 11 after 'pen can't protect late lead

Phils fall in 11 after 'pen can't protect late lead
WASHINGTON -- The big red banner that stretched over the top of the scoreboard at Nationals Park renamed the place Natitude Park for the weekend.


It was impossible to escape the slogan during Friday's series opener between the Phillies and Nationals. The Nationals, who had the word plastered everywhere, had campaigned since the winter for their fans to "Take Back the Park" this weekend and keep out Phillies fans, who had packed the place and booed the Nationals in their own home for years.

They hoped Natitude would fire up the fan base. They drew 34,377 fans Friday, with maybe a quarter Phillies fans. But their fans certainly enjoyed a 4-3 victory over the Phillies in 11 innings. Wilson Ramos hit a bases-loaded single with two outs against Phillies right-hander Michael Schwimer to win it.

"It's tough when you come out there, you warm up, and you have all those Phillies fans yellng at you, saying nasty things to you," Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg said. "So you really don't expect that to be in your own ballpark. Hopefully, if we keep winning, we'll get more and more of our fans out there."

If the Phillies looked at Friday (or the series) as an opportunity for the five-time defending National League East champions to quiet a team that has not had a winning season since they were the Montreal Expos in 2003, they did not express it.

"This is one game in the series, one game of 162," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "We're going to play these guys a lot more."

They wasted a good opportunity against Strasburg. He cruised through the first three innings, keeping the Phillies hitless, until Juan Pierre hit a leadoff single to center field in the fourth inning. Two batters later, Hunter Pence hit a first-pitch breaking ball to left-center field for a two-run home run to make it 2-0.

Right-handed hitters had 259 plate appearances against Strasburg in his career before Pence's homer. The only other homer he had allowed to a right-hander came Aug. 10, 2010, when Atlanta's Dan Uggla hit one. Pence's blast also snapped a streak of 66 consecutive innings without a home run allowed (Current National Adam LaRoche had hit the last one against Strasburg, on Aug. 15, 2010).

Carlos Ruiz hit a solo home run to right field in the fourth inning to make it 3-1.

The Nationals scored a run in the sixth inning to make it 3-2, making an insurance run for the Phillies crucial.

They had one -- twice -- in the seventh.

Umpire Joe West missed Friday's game because of an illness, leaving his crew short a man. It cost Phillies manager Charlie Manuel in the first inning, when home-plate umpire Rob Drake ejected him. Bryce Harper appeared to not check his swing, but Drake said he did. Manuel hollered at Drake from the dugout, and Drake quickly tossed him.

Had there been an umpire at third, maybe the play would have been successfully appealed.

The lack of a fourth umpire got the Phillies again later. Victorino was on second base with one out in the seventh when Ruiz hit a ball over the left corner of third base. Drake called the ball foul, although it appeared to be fair.

Had it been ruled fair, Victorino would have scored to give the Phillies a two-run lead.

"It was a big run for us," Ruiz said. "It would be the difference in the game."

Victorino then was called out stealing third. The throw actually beat Victorino to the base, but Victorino's foot touched the base first. Ruiz then singled to right field.

Had Victorino been correctly called safe, the Phillies would have had their two-run lead -- again.

"I talked with [umpire Andy Fletcher] after, and we discussed the matter of being in the best position he could possibly be in," Victorino said. "He admitted, but said from what he saw and his angle, that I was out. I can't sit there and be upset about it. I understand situations sometimes dictate that. He said it might have been different if he was at third base, but the situation dictates having two umpires on the bases. It's just one of those things. He's human."

Schwimer started the ninth inning with only Jonathan Papelbon and Brian Sanches remaining in the bullpen. Like every manager in baseball, Manuel's fill-in, bench coach Pete Mackanin, had no plans to bring in Papelbon to pitch in a tie game on the road. And Sanches threw 41 pitches Wednesday in Atlanta, so the Phils were saving him in case the game went longer.

Schwimer had two outs and nobody on in the 11th when he allowed a single to Steve Lombardozzi, then walked Harper and Jayson Werth to load the bases. Ramos then hit a 1-2 slider into left-center for a single to win it.

It was Schwimer's 58th pitch, and his last inning if he had been able to keep the game tied.

"There's absolutely no excuses," Schwimer said. "I wasn't throwing on fumes. I could have thrown five more innings. I just wasn't executing my pitches, and I paid for it."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.