With his Washington Nationals leading the NL East, manager Davey Johnson was eager to see how his club stacked up to the five-time reigning division champions.
Washington passed the first test in dramatic fashion.
The Nationals try to extend their winning streak over the Philadelphia Phillies to seven when the teams continue a three-game set Saturday afternoon in the nation's capital.
After trailing for much of the game, Washington (17-9) pulled out a thrilling 4-3, 11-inning victory over Philadelphia (13-14) on Friday. The Nationals bullpen picked up starter Stephen Strasburg by allowing three hits and a walk over five scoreless innings before pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos came through with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the 11th.
"They kind of have a bigger feeling when you're playing the Phillies," Johnson said. "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."
The Phillies are getting used to the feeling of losing to Washington, which has won the last six meetings. The Nationals haven't posted seven consecutive wins over the Phillies since an eight-game run as the Montreal Expos from June 2-July 25, 1989.
"We're here to win. We want to win for our fan base. ... For too many years, we had to play the likes of the Phillies, the Mets, the Braves and the Marlins. Undermanned and outgunned," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "It's like going to a gun fight with a knife. Not anymore. We're fully armed, extremely dangerous, and we're the talk of baseball."
Washington sends Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.82 ERA) to the hill Saturday.
After striking out 21 and walking just four over 20 innings in his previous three starts, the left-hander allowed two runs and issued five free passes over six innings of Sunday's 2-0 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gonzalez, who has never faced the Phillies, has yet to surrender a run at home, where he's allowed just six baserunners and struck out 15 in two starts spanning 14 innings.
Philadelphia, which has alternated wins with losses in the first four games of its road trip, looks to get back on track behind Vance Worley (2-1, 1.97), who has allowed either one run or none in four of his five outings.
The right-hander threw seven innings of one-run ball but didn't factor in the decision of Monday's 6-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Worley split two starts against the Nationals in 2011 - both at home - while allowing five runs in 12 innings. He's 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three road starts this season, and 7-1 with a 2.65 ERA over his last 11 road outings dating to mid-June.
While it wasn't initially certain that Nationals phenom Bryce Harper would stick with the big-league club, Rizzo said Friday that there are no plans to return the No. 1 pick from the 2010 draft to the minors any time soon. He is batting .316 through six games despite going 0 for 3 on Friday.
"We have a developmental plan for Bryce Harper. It's been well documented. ... But we're not dumb, either," Rizzo said. "This guy is performing admirably in the big leagues. We feel that he's got a chance to really impact the ballclub. He's a special talent."
- Washington Nationals