Philadelphia (17-16) saw a 6-4 lead evaporate with two outs in the ninth inning to send the game into extra frames before erupting for four runs in the 12th to finally put away the victory in a little over 4 1/2 hours. The deciding blow came on Raul Ibanez's two-run single up the middle, his fourth hit of the night.
The extra-inning affair not only forced the club to use most of its bullpen, but as a result, sent it scrambling to make new plans for the day-night doubleheader scheduled for Saturday. Left-hander J.A. Happ (2-0), who was slated to start Saturday's nightcap, came on in the 11th inning to strike out the side and qualify for the win with two innings of work.
Happ's unavailability to start Saturday night forced the Phillies to go to "Plan B," and as a result they will recall rookie right-hander Andrew Carpenter from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday.
But manager Charlie Manuel couldn't worry too much about Saturday's starters, not when he still had a game to win Friday night.
"Once we got during the game and I looked at their team and our team and compared who was left, I said, '[Heck], we're going for it,'" Manuel said. "And Happ got a win. How much better could he do tomorrow?"
Perhaps the biggest plus was the fact that the Phillies' dormant bats appeared to get a wakeup call. The team combined for 16 hits on the night, with Ryan Howard's tape-measure three-run homer in the seventh inning highlighting the attack.
The win raised the Phillies' record on the road to 9-4, among the best in the big leagues, which offsets their surprisingly disappointing 8-12 record at home.
Manuel knew that his team would start hitting eventually, so Friday night was as good a time as any -- as the team kicked off a 10-game road trip which will take it to Washington and Cincinnati before the Phils head to Yankee Stadium for their first taste of Interleague Play this season.
During their most recent six-game homestand, the Phillies had combined to bat just .187 while going 2-4 and, frankly, in the first five innings on Friday, it didn't look like much had changed.
Nationals starter John Lannan kept Philadelphia's bats in check in his first five innings of work, and the club managed just one run on four hits in that span. But once Lannan hit a pair of batters, Washington (11-22) turned to its bullpen and the floodgates opened.
Though the Phillies drew first blood in the second inning on an RBI single by catcher Carlos Ruiz -- just his third RBI of the season -- the Nats answered back in the third with four runs off starter Joe Blanton.
Philadelphia scratched out a pair of runs in the sixth thanks to run-scoring singles from Pedro Feliz and Ruiz before taking the lead in the seventh on Howard's blast over the 402-foot sign in center field off left-hander Joe Beimel. It was his seventh homer of the season and snapped a 3-for-26 skid in his past seven games.
"I wasn't really looking for too much of anything, that was probably the best thing about it," said Howard. "I just kind of reacted to the fastball and caught up to it and was lucky enough to have it go out."
But the Nationals sent the game to extra innings with two outs in the ninth when Willie Harris delivered a two-run double off closer Brad Lidge.
Though Lidge, the top reliever in the National League in 2008, is off to a rough start in '09 with a 9.19 ERA, Manuel is not ready to panic or lose confidence in the seasoned veteran.
"He still has that 95 mph fastball and that slider, and I'll send him right back out there tomorrow," Manuel said. "He's our closer. That's part of showing a guy you believe in him."
The Phillies' last three innings were made more grueling, perhaps, not just with the knowledge of what still lay ahead on the weekend schedule, but by the fact that they came so close to coming away with a much less "exciting" win.
"Tonight we had the game and we kind of let it slip away," Manuel admitted. "We got it back, but you can always build off of a win no matter how bad you play. It's better than losing."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.