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MLB Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals Edge Philadelphia Phillies And Close Playoff Gap

Brad Mills – USA Today Sports

The Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 last night in Philadelphia. Washington took the series two games to one, but more importantly they moved to within 6.5 games of the Cincinnati Reds for the final National League Wild Card spot. The Reds dropped a 16-inning marathon at home against the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 5-4.

The Nationals’ starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, outdueled the Phillies’ Roy Halladay to win his NL-leading 16th game. Unlike Tuesday night’s wild and sloppy 9-6 win by Washington, this game featured an outstanding defensive performance and some text book small ball.

On Wednesday night, Washington played the best defense of the 2013 season, but last night’s game will be remembered for the two of the best plays of the year thus far.

First there was Steve Lombardozzi and Jordan Zimmermann saving a run in the seventh inning with a spectacular play at first base. The play off the year, though, came when Jhonatan Solano went flying through the air like Superman to tag Chase Utley at home plate after rushing to grab a wild pitch on a strikeout to keep the Nationals in the lead, while Craig Stammen tumbled over them to end the eighth on a wild double play.

The Nationals’ playoff hopes are alive because of their defense, and they were able to play some small ball. After Zimmerman tied the game at two with his 17th home run on the season in the seventh inning, Wilson Ramos walked to open the eighth, and manager Davey Johnson, the man who preaches about the three-run homer, went small.

Johnson gave Jeff Kobernus – at second on a bunt –the green light to steal third, which he did. Steve Lombardozzi smacked a chopper to second base and Kobernus sprinted his way home. It was 3-2 Nationals after the aforementioned play by Solano to end the eighth inning — a big win and one that kept hopes alive for some postseason baseball in Washington.

The Nationals have a day off today then open a weekend series in South Beach against the Miami Marlins. My guess  they will be sitting by the TV and rooting for the Cards to beat the Reds tonight in Cincinnati so they can gain a half game in the Wild Card standings. I know that is what their fans will be doing.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning, producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and be part of his Google+ group.