PHILADELPHIA -- Jayson Werth knew. When Jimmy Rollins alertly and aggressively scampered 180 feet from first base to third base on a Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt, Werth knew Nationals reliever Jesus Colome would throw eight intentional balls to walk Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, setting up a force at any base. Baseball strategy dictated this, as the winning run stood on third with less than two outs in the 10th inning. Strategy authored a similar tact in the eighth inning, when Werth grounded to short.
Two innings later, Werth was again searching for a way to end a chilly afternoon and get the Phillies to Cincinnati with win No. 1 of the 2008 season. He looked for a good pitch, and forced Colome to throw him a strike. It never happened, and Werth coaxed a four-pitch walk-off walk to send Philadelphia to an 8-7 win over Washington, ending the Nationals' perfect season. "He's a guy you have to buckle down against and make sure you have a good at-bat," Werth said. "You don't want to be overanxious. After the first [ball], I was going to make him throw a strike." Much had to happen before the job came to Werth, who entered the game in the eighth. The Phillies had to first climb back from a deficits of 5-0 and 6-1, which they did via a six-run sixth inning that gave them a 7-6 lead. The Nationals tied the game in the eighth, and it stayed that way in the 10th. Oh, there were dips, notably Tom Gordon wiggling in and out of danger in a 34-pitch ninth inning that nearly put the Phillies behind. In the 10th, Colome allowed an infield single to Rollins leading off, setting up a bunt situation for Victorino. He deadened the ball in front of home plate, and Ryan Zimmerman raced in to field it and threw to first, where second baseman Ronnie Belliard was covering. Rollins didn't stop at second. A tad slow to realize, Belliard wheeled and threw to third, where first baseman Nick Johnson raced across the diamond to secure the throw. Catcher Jesus Flores, who should've backed up third, and Zimmerman couldn't return to the bag in time. "When a fielder fields it, you're supposed to get to third," catcher Chris Coste said. "I can see where there can be confusion caused on that kind of play." That's Rollins, master of causing problems for opponents. "I see Belliard kind of taking his time making the play, and I see Jimmy keep running out of the corner of my eye," Victorino said. "I knew they weren't going to be able to make a play. That was great baserunning and great instincts. It shows the smarts he has in the game." The teams combined for 15 runs on 30 hits, and left a combined 25 men on base. A night after being one hit by Tim Redding and two relievers, the Phils rapped out 16 hits. Eight of them came in the sixth inning, when the Phillies sent 11 men to the plate. Victorino grounded out to start the frame, and later singled to give his team the lead. "We're trying to get the offense firing and it helps when you can have an outburst like that," said Greg Dobbs, who had the seventh of seven straight singles. "We know our offense is capable of outbursts like that. It could've been easy to fold up the tent [after being down], get on the plane and turn it around in Cincinnati. But that's not this ballclub." Rollins knows this, too, and the reigning NL MVP made sure to show up when his team needed him. "Well, he's the MVP," Geoff Jenkins said. "That's what they do. They do things at special times to help you win games. It's an instinct play. You can't teach that. Jimmy has the 'it' factor, if you will." The MVP delivered to his team to a better plane ride to Cincinnati. "If you're only going to win one game of a series, it might as well be the last one as you're getting out of town," Coste said. "It was disappointing to lose the last two games, but this win feels good." It felt good that a team with high expectations got a chance to laugh three games into the season. Rollins declined to speak to reporters after the game and offered no explanation. That left others to speak of what the play meant for the team's psyche, though some simply joked. "I'd have been standing up at third," Victorino said, joking that his superior speed wouldn't have necessitated him sliding on the bunt. "Easily." "I would've been sliding into second," Coste said. Would Dobbs, one of the team's slower runners, have made it? "No chance," he said, laughing. "I'm not as fleet of foot as the Flyin' Hawaiian or J-Roll from the Bay."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.