Nine games into the 2010 season, the Phillies' big vulnerability seems to be getaway day games against the Nationals. Abetted by the first real bullpen meltdown of the year, Washington once again salvaged a win in the finale of a three-game set with six runs in the last three innings.
Phils pitching was actually pretty shoddy from the jump, though you couldn't have discerned as much from the linescore: J.A. Happ held the Nats to one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings despite walking six men and striking out none. Happ's ERA remains at 0.00 for the year with a WHIP of 1.65--one of those statistical flukes by which you know it's April. Happ didn't have a clean inning all day, but two double plays and a bunch of popups kept the damage to a minimum.
Meanwhile, after Chase Utley's first inning home run gave the Phils a 1-0 lead, Washington starter and confirmed redass Scott Olsen held the Phils in check until the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, fill-in shortstop Juan Castro poked a two-run single through the right side, ending Olsen's day. Reliever Tyler Clippard walked Carlos Ruiz intentionally and Greg Dobbs unintentionally to stretch the lead to 4-1, and the Phils looked poised to notch their eighth win in nine games.
It was not to be. Antonio Bastardo allowed one run in the seventh on a two-out Ian Desmond RBI single, and then Danys Baez imploded an inning later. Adam Dunn led off with his first home run of the year, and two batters later, with a man on first, Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for Clippard and blasted a two-run shot out to right field. The Nationals added two more runs off Ryan Madson in the ninth, when Pudge Rodriguez singled with two outs and men on second and third. Shane Victorino hit a solo homer off Matt Capps to draw the Phils within two in the bottom of the ninth, but after Placido Polanco singled, Capps retired Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to end the game.
With a hard to complain about yet somehow unsatisfying 4-2 start against Washington behind them (plus those other three wins against the Astros), the Phils welcome the Marlins Friday night with Roy Halladay set to pitch.
edit: I inexcusably neglected to mention that TGP eminence David Cohen enjoyed a moment of glory even more spectacular than Juan Castro's in the sixth inning of today's game--captured forever in the picture in the comments below. It's possible no ice cream has ever tasted so sweet.