WASHINGTON - As Ryan Zimmerman jogged home to touch home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning, Brad Lidge stood in front of the mound with a blank expression on his face, his brain not yet capable of processing the event that had just occured.
"Normally, that's a pitch for me that I know when I release it where it's going to go," Lidge said later. "That one didn't go where I thought it was going to go. So it was surprising."
The pitch was a slider, and the place where it went was the arm of Jonny Gomes, and the surprising result was a 5-4 loss to the Nationals that brought a bizarre series to a fitting end.
Lidge's bases-loaded hit-by-pitch with one out in the bottom of the 10th was preceded by a weekend full of unfamiliar circumstances, the result of which was a pair of losses in a three-game series in which the Phillies held a lead in 21 of 28 innings. Heading into the weekend, the bullpen had blown just three saves all season. By the end of it, they had doubled that total.
On Friday, it was Ryan Madson allowing six runs in the bottom of the ninth, the last four of them coming on a walkoff grand slam by Zimmerman. Yesterday, it happened twice, first in the sixth inning, when Michael Schwimer's second big-league pitch ended up behind the centerfield fence for a game-tying home run by Danny Espinosa. Then, with two outs in the ninth and the Phillies leading 4-3, Antonio Bastardo allowed a game-tying homer to Ian Desmond.
Schwimer, called up last week when Placido Polanco went on the disabled list, was forced to make his major league debut after a rain delay of 1 hour, 11 minutes ended Roy Halladay's start after five innings. The delay was the Phillies' third lengthy stoppage in four games, including a 2-hour, 17-minute delay on Thursday that knocked Vance Worley out after three innings, and a 2-hour, 22-minute delay on Friday that interrupted the top of the first inning, prompting the Phillies to start Kyle Kendrick instead of Roy Oswalt.
"You want to pitch as much as you can and keep on that regular schedule," said Halladay, whose last start was bumped up a day because of a rain-out. "Any time you are getting bumped or cut short, it's not fun."
Oswalt gave the bullpen a much-needed break with eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win on Saturday. And after Schwimer held the Nationals scoreless in the seventh and eighth yesterday, Michael Martinez' go-ahead single in the top of the ninth gave Bastardo a chance to record his ninth save.
The 25-year-old lefty lowered his already-miniscule 1.35 ERA by striking out Jesus Flores and Brian Bixler on eight pitches to start the frame, but left a 1-2 slider over the plate for Desmond, resulting in his first blown save of the season.
"He made me pay," said Bastardo, who struck out Rick Ankiel to send the game to extras.
Manager Charlie Manuel decided to give righthander Ryan Madson a second day off after a recent heavy workload, putting the 4-4 tie in the hands of Lidge in the 10th. The veteran righthander allowed a leadoff double to Zimmerman, then intentionally walked Mike Morse before a Jayson Werth single loaded the bases. Lidge struck out Espinosa for the first out, but hit Gomes with a 1-0 slider to force the winning run home.
The loss dropped the Phillies to 81-44 and trimmed their lead over the Braves to 6 1/2 games. It also gave the Nationals a bit of vengeance for the remarkable takeover of their stadium by thousands of Phillies fans, who made the three-game series look and feel as if it was played at Citizens Bank Park. Saturday night's largely pro-Philadelphia crowd was the largest in Nationals Park history. Yesterday's was the third-largest. The Phillies gave them plenty to cheer: Of the series' 28 innings, they entered only one with a deficit. In the end, though, the Nationals took two out of three, giving them five wins in their last seven games against the team with the best record in the majors.