WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a big test on Friday. They faced their biggest rival in the National League East, with the Phillies in town. In Round 1 of their first matchup of the season, the Nationals defeated the Phillies, 4-3, on a walk-off RBI single by Wilson Ramos in the 11th inning in front of 34,377 fans.
It was game that saw manager Davey Johnson need every one of his position players, and Ramos was the last man left on the Nationals' bench.
The score was tied at 3 when the Nationals rallied against reliever Michael Schwimer. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ramos swung at a 1-2 pitch and singled to left-center field, scoring Stephen Lombardozzi.
"I was freaking out. ... I got to Ramos as fast as possible. I was pumped," said Lombardozzi. "I was thinking to myself, 'Did I touch home plate?' I hope I did."
Ramos, who was rewarded with a shaving-cream pie to the face, courtesy of teammate Jesus Flores, was waiting for a breaking pitch.
"I was waiting for one pitch over the plate," Ramos said. "He threw me a couple of sliders, and he hung the last pitch. I hit the ball well through the middle."
Known as a closer in the Minors, Schwimer was pitching his third inning, and he didn't give any excuses. He said he could have pitched five more innings.
"I just wasn't executing my pitches, and I paid for it," Schwimer said. "I threw a good pitch, and he hit it. I stayed away from him all at-bat. Maybe I should have gone in, but hindsight is 20-20. This is baseball. It's on me for walking [Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth before facing Ramos]."
It was the Nationals' third straight victory as they improved their record to 17-9. It was their 10th one-run victory of the season.
It's early, but this was a big game for Johnson and the Nationals. They know they have to get past the Phillies in order to win the division. After all, the Phillies have been on top of the NL East for the last five years.
"You have a bigger feeling when you play the Phillies," Johnson said. "I felt they were the best team in baseball last year. To beat them the first time in our house, it was a big game for us. I'm sure the Phillies felt the same way, because we are sitting on top. It was fun."
It was also fun to see most of the fans at Nationals Park rooting for the hometown team. Prior to this year, Phillies fans dominated the ballpark when the two clubs met. It's safe to say that about 70 percent of the fans were rooting for Washington on Friday.
"It was nice to have the crowd behind us tonight. I would guess it was 70/30 tonight, but it's better than 20/80 the other way," shortstop Ian Desmond said.
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg said winning games will fill the entire stadium with Nats fans.
"It's tough when you come out there, you warm up, and you have all those Phillies fans yelling at you, saying nasty things to you, so you really don't expect that to be in your own ballpark," Strasburg said. "Hopefully, if we keep winning, we'll get more and more of our fans out there."
It was Strasburg started who started for Washington, and the Phillies used the long ball to score their three runs in the game. In the fourth inning, the Phillies took a 2-0 lead when Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer over the left-center-field wall, scoring Juan Pierre.
Washington would cut the lead in half against Kyle Kendrick in the bottom of the inning, when Chad Tracy led off with a solo home run.
The Phillies would add to the lead against Strasburg in the sixth inning, when Carlos Ruiz clubbed a solo homer over the center-field wall for his fifth homer of the season.
Strasburg lasted six innings and allowed three runs on three hits.
"I left a couple of pitches up. It's an adjustment. It was just one of those games where they made me pay for it," Strasburg said. "It was just a couple of pitches. It could have gone differently, whether they decided to swing at them or not."
The Nationals would make it a one-run game again in the sixth inning, when Danny Espinosa scored on a sac fly by Flores.
The Nationals would tie the score in the eighth inning against reliever Chad Qualls. With runners on first and second, Flores hit the ball just past John Mayberry Jr. in left field for a double scoring Tracy.
It was a game that saw the Nationals leave 14 runners on base. But they were able to get the big hit when it counted in the 11th inning.
"We had opportunities the whole ballgame. But the offense showed life. That was a good thing," Johnson said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.