Don't look now, but the Phillies are in danger of becoming, dare I say it, "hot."
The Phillies win. This is what Jonathan Papelbon came here for. The Phillies have won 6 of their last 9. Break 'em up.
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) August 2, 2014
Buoyed by Roberto Hernandez' best performance of the year, solid hitting from Marlon Byrd and Grady Sizemore, and a got-the-job-done save by Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies beat the Nationals in Washington, 2-1. They've taken the first two games of their four-game set against the first-place Nationals, while nicely putting the distractions of the last 10 days behind them.
Hernandez was brilliant, out-dueling Washington starter Doug Fister by throwing eight innings of one-run ball on five hits and three strikeouts and one walk. And not that you'd notice, but Hernandez' ERA is now 3.87 on the season. That's tied for 32nd in the National League among 50 qualified starters, better than some more marquee names, like Homer Bailey, Shelby Miller, A.J. Burnett, Jorge de la Rosa, and Tim Lincecum.
Hernandez' strikeout-to-walk ratio is not good, but has made up for it by being one of the most consistent ground-ball pitchers in the National League this year, 13th in the NL in ground-ball percentage going into tonight's game, at 52.2%. Hernandez recorded 10 ground ball outs against three fly outs tonight against Washington.
The Phillies did not exactly knock Fister around on Friday night, banging out just six hits, but they made them count. They scored quickly in the second, thanks to a Sizemore double and a Cody Asche RBI single to right. Asche gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning after a throwing error allowed Adam LaRoche to advance to third with no out, scoring on an Ian Desmond RBI single to center, making it 1-1.
Then, one of the Phils who no one thought would, or should, still be a Phillie as the calendar turned to August, did what he has done all year. Hit home runs. Marlon Byrd connected on a Fister sixth-inning offering with two out to right-center field for his 21st long-ball of the season. Byrd is now tied with Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki for 3rd in the National League in home runs, just four homers behind league-leaders Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo.
As for Sizemore, he added two more hits to his tally, bringing his 17-game batting average with the Phils to .344, with an on-base percentage of .382. He doesn't have the power he once did, but has been a nice spark at the top of the lineup, and should continue to see playing time the rest of the season.
It's been a tough 48 hours for Ruben Amaro. For one night at least, he can smile.