For most of the 2009 season thus far, the Phillies have posted wins by virtue of the hitters bailing out the pitchers: the team entered play Friday night just one half-game back of the NL East lead despite a gruesome 5.11 team ERA. Facing the last-place Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, the lineup cranked out 16 hits, tying a season high--but left 13 men on base, scoring just five runs. Fortunately, J.A. Happ and a series of relievers held Washington to four, and the Phils held steady a half-game behind the Mets.
After falling behind 1-0 on a Josh Willingham solo home run, the Phils scored one run in the second inning, three more in the third, and another in the fourth against Washington starter Ross Detwiler to claim a 5-1 lead. Shane Victorino led the way with four hits on the night, but every starter had at least one and Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz had two each.
But despite putting runners on in every inning, they could not add on, and Washington rallied for three runs in the sixth inning. Happ, making just his second start, ran out of gas after 96 pitches and left with two on and one out. Chad Durbin promptly surrendered a double and a single, trimming the lead to 5-4 before recording the final two outs of the inning. Scott Eyre followed with an easy 1-2-3 in the seventh, but Ryan Madson had to pitch out of trouble in the eighth, stranding two base runners. Brad Lidge--still struggling to locate his fastball, but benefitting from a suddenly generous strike zone as well as some impatience from the Nats batters--closed Washington out in order to earn his 10th save.
Cole Hamels takes the mound Saturday as the Phillies seek to secure a rare series victory at home. Shairon Martis goes for the Nats.