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Ian Desmond is mobbed by teammates following his game-winning sacrifice fly.
Rough day at the ballpark for the Nationals, huh?
Except for one small tidbit: They won again.
"It shows the character of this ballclub," manager Davey Johnson said following a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Marlins. "I didn't see any letdown on the ballclub, and I still had some bullets left to fire. We hung in there."
As impressive as many of the Nationals' MLB-leading 12 wins have been, most of them coming by way of brilliant pitching performances, perhaps more impressive has been the manner in which they've eked out a couple more wins on days in which it looked like the world was going to cave in on them.
They took it to a new level this afternoon, fielding a lineup minus Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, still taking a 2-0 lead into the ninth thanks to Stephen Strasburg's dominant start and a couple of solo home run from Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth but then watching as Brad Lidge served up a game-tying homer to Logan Morrison that left the crowd of 26,745 stunned.
Having already blown a previous save opportunity in the Nationals' home opener while looking shaky in a couple other appearances, Lidge turned what should have been a near-picture-perfect ballgame into a tense, nailbiter.
Lidge's biggest problem: He hasn't been able to locate his trademark slider, forcing him to rely too much on a low-90s fastball that isn't what it used to be.
"Honestly, right now I'm not throwing well out there," the 35-year-old said. "My location's bad. I'm able to get ahead of guys sometimes, but I'm not able to put them away with the slider I've been able to in the past."
As bad as the Morrison homer -- which landed in the second deck down the right-field line -- was, Lidge's bigger mistake was walking leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez after getting ahead in the count 0-2.
"You just can't do that, not in a close ballgame," said Johnson, who is still professing enough confidence in Lidge to use him in save situations moving forward.
Lidge's ninth-inning meltdown could have destroyed an otherwise splendid performance from Strasburg, who has been so dominant in his first four starts this year that each outing has begun to feel routine and -- dare anyone suggest it? -- boring.
The 23-year-old right-hander carved through the Miami lineup with ease, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out six (five on curveballs). He allowed only one runner to reach third base and would have returned for the seventh inning had Johnson been willing to extend his young hurler's pitch count.
"It's too early for me to let him hit and go one more inning," the manager said. "That one more inning could be invaluable later in the year."
Strasburg, who now boasts a 1.08 ERA and a 25-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, was in line to earn his third victory until Lidge's blown save. He remained in the dugout, though, for the 10th inning, and watched as his teammates rallied yet again.
"It's awesome," Strasburg said. "The season's still young, but we've pulled close ones out. Definitely there's no sense of panic when we get to that situation. We know that if the guy up to bat doesn't get it done, the next guy will."
Wilson Ramos jumpstarted the winning rally with a single to right-center, but sloppy defense by the Marlins helped extend it. When LaRoche (who entered in the 10th on a double-switch) tapped a routine grounder to first, Gaby Sanchez easily could have stepped on the bag and then thrown to second base to try to complete a 3-6 double play. Instead, Sanchez decided to make the throw first, believing he could turn a 3-6-3 double play, only to fire the ball high and watch as it skipped into the outfield.
Ramos raced around to third, and after LaRoche later advanced to second on defensive indifference, the Nationals had two men in scoring position with nobody out.
That played right into Desmond's hands. Normally, he might feel the need to put the ball in the air to try to score the winning run. But with another runner behind Ramos, even a groundball would have resulted in the winning run standing 90 feet away with less than two outs.
"Any kind of contract," Desmond said of his approach in that spot. "With runners on second and third, we have two opportunities."
He only needed one, because he lofted Edward Mujica's 1-2 pitch into center field, plenty deep enough to score Ramos and give the Nationals their sixth 1-run victory already this season.
So it wasn't a work of art. At 12-4 and comfortably in first place, they don't care much about style points right now.
"It's huge," Lidge said. "For us to get as many wins late as we're getting now just shows that as a collective team, we don't get down if something doesn't go our way late in the game, early in the game, whatever. We still believe we're going to win the game. That speaks a lot about the character of guys in this clubhouse. ...
"Probably every one of us will go through a spell where we're not doing great during a part of the season. But if we keep picking each other up, keeping winning games, we're all going to be happy."