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Phils drop below .500 with 4-3 loss at Nats in 11

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel argues with home plate umpire Rob Drake after he was ejected for questioning a walk to Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper during the first inning of their baseball game at Nationals Park, Friday, May 4, 2012, in Washington. Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel argues with home plate umpire Rob Drake after he was ejected for questioning a walk to Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper during the first inning of their baseball game at Nationals Park, Friday, May 4, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)
By Howard Fendrich
AP Sports Writer / May 5, 2012
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WASHINGTON—Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's evening ended early: He was ejected in the bottom of the first for arguing about a check-swing call.

His complaints hardly stopped there in what turned out to be a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals in 11 innings Friday night.

On a night when the umpiring crew was a man short because Joe West missed the game with an illness, Manuel was disappointed with two calls in the seventh inning: A ball hit down the third-base line by Carlos Ruiz was called foul ("Fair ball, all night long," Manuel said) and, later, Shane Victorino was called out when attempting to steal third ("He was safe, but it was a tough call to see," according to the manager).

This was Washington's fifth walk-off victory of the season, the most in the majors, according to STATS LLC. The Nationals improved to 4-2 in extra innings; the Phillies fell to 0-4.

"They kind of have a bigger feeling when you're playing the Phillies. I felt they were the best team in baseball last year. To come in and beat them the first time in our house ... it was a big game for us, and I'm sure the Phillies felt the same way, because we're sitting on top," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.

Well, maybe not.

Asked whether this series is a chance for the Phillies to put the Nationals in their place, Victorino said: "Nah. This is just one game in the series. Just one of 162."

Since moving to Washington from Montreal, the Nationals never had even finished so much as third in the NL East until last season. Now they're atop the division at 17-9, while the perennial champion Phillies are 13-14 and haven't been above .500 since starting the season 1-0.

Steve Lombardozzi started the winning rally against Michael Schwimer (0-1) by singling with two outs, and 19-year-old Bryce Harper drew his third walk of the game before Jayson Werth walked to load the bases.

That brought up Ramos, who hit a 1-2 slider to bring home Lombardozzi and set off a celebration, with his teammates streaming out of the dugout to greet him at first base. Someone smeared Ramos with shaving cream.

"Early in the game, I was sitting on the bench, eating sunflower seeds and talking to my teammates," Ramos said, describing life as a catcher given a day off.

When he was told to go bat, Ramos recalled, "I just take my batting gloves and (thought), `OK, I'm the man. Go out and hit the ball hard.'"

And he did.

"I was freaking out," Lombardozzi said.

Ryan Perry (1-0), Washington's sixth pitcher, earned the win with a perfect 11th, getting the No. 3-4-5 hitters -- Placido Polanco, Hunter Pence and Victorino -- on groundouts.

The Nationals trailed 3-1, but tied it with two RBIs from Jesus Flores, one on a sacrifice fly in the sixth, the other a double in the eighth.

Much earlier, Pence and Ruiz homered off Stephen Strasburg, who had gone 66 innings without letting a ball leave the yard. Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick gave up one run in five innings -- on Chad Tracy's solo shot -- to outdo Strasburg, who entered as the reigning NL pitcher of the month, owning the second-best ERA in the league (it rose from 1.13 to 1.66 on Friday), and having allowed only one homer to a right-handed batter in his career.

Now he's allowed three.

Pence drove a first-pitch curveball over the fence in left-center for a two-run homer in the fourth. Entering Friday, Strasburg had gone 63 innings over 12 appearances without serving up a long ball to anyone -- since Aug. 15, 2010, when current teammate Adam LaRoche homered for Arizona.

Then Ruiz began the fifth by sending an 0-1 pitch just to the right of the 402-foot sign in center, making it 3-1. There was a loud burst of excitement and cheers from Phillies fans when the ball cleared the wall, then jeers from Nationals supporters.

As part of a marketing campaign, the hosts put a makeshift banner reading "NATITUDE PARK" over where the stadium's real name is atop the scoreboard. They also tried a "Take Back the Park" campaign to keep out Phillies fans, making tickets for this three-game series available online only to season ticketholders and local fans from Washington, Maryland or Virginia.

It added up to an announced attendance of 34,377 -- more than 10,000 above Washington's average, which ranks 14th in the 16-team NL -- for a game filled with quirky plays.

With a runner on and one out in the first, Harper checked his swing on a 3-1 pitch. Plate umpire Rob Drake called a ball, and Harper trotted to first. Ruiz, Philadelphia's catcher, pointed toward third, wanting to appeal to an umpire.

One problem: There was no umpire at third base. The umpire who normally would be near third, Andy Fletcher, had shifted to be near second while there was a runner on first.

Manuel came out to argue, and was tossed.

NOTES: Manuel said injured 2B Chase Utley (knee) is expected to join the team in Washington on Saturday for a workout and batting practice and then could go Sunday or Monday to Clearwater, Fla., for rehab work. ... Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez faces Philadelphia RHP Vance Worley on Saturday.

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