Kyle Kendrick pitched seven sparkling innings, leading the Phillies to a shutout over the Nationals at Natitude Park in Washington D.C. The Nationals, who entered this final series of
2012 The Year of the Festering Boil with a Magic Number of one, needed either a win, or a loss by the Atlanta Braves, to clinch the franchise's first division title since Elb in 1981. You just can't trust the Braves. In front of a near-sellout crowd of 35,387, the Nationals celebrated their crown despite the loss. And to their credit, they navigated the division-win and game-loss awkwardness very well. Nicely done, guys.
Pretend this is the jump.
The Phillies got their scoring done early, with both runs coming in the second inning. Carlos Ruiz walked, and, after Ty Wigginton Rollinsed to foul territory, Domonic Brown lined a single to center, bringing up Darin Ruf. 'Babe' Ruf followed with a triple off the center-fielder, the first of his career, to drive in both runs. Ruf now has a seven-game hitting streak.
In the fourth, the Phils had a chance for more. With one out, Wigginton singled to left, and Brown doubled to right. With Mr. Fleet-of-Foot on third, and Brown on second, the Nats elected to walk Ruf (making the first walk of his career an intentional one), bringing up Michael Martinez. Ten points for guessing what happened next. Yeah. Seriously. Kyle Kendrick is a better hitter than Martinez.
Speaking of Kyle, though, it was tremendous to see him come out strong against the Nats, especially after the drubbing they gave him the last time out. He walked one, struck out four, and scattered four hits over seven innings, needing only 100 pitches, and only really in danger once. Justin De Fratus and Jeremy Horst combined to pitch a scoreless eighth, and, Veteran Experienced Bullpen Ace Phillippe Aumont pitched a perfect ninth for his first big-league save.
Speaking of bullpens (yeah, I just began two consecutive paragraphs with "speaking of"), the Nationals bullpen is very good. Craig Stammen, in particular, struck out the side in two straight innings, on only 30 pitches.
Lessee here. Fangraph of Complicated New Blogging Software:
Game two of this series, the penultimate of the season, is tomorrow night, as Washington's Gio Gonzalez meets up against Mysterious Mystery Man of the Phillies. The Phillies are now assured of a .500 record, at least, and they have two chances to secure their tenth consecutive winning record. How the mighty and all that.