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Naked bullpen woes: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

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And this time I’m not talking about the Phillies bullpen!

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

If you sat down with your mother today and said “Mom, we’re going to watch the best team the Phillies have fielded in four years. Happy Mother’s Day!” then I admire your pluck. Because while this is probably the best team the Phillies have fielded since the 2012 squad (which went .500 on the year), most of the time they’re nothing to write home about. Or show your mom, who was probably hoping you’d take her out for brunch or something.

But I admire your bravery, Phillies fan who I completely made up. Because it paid off today. The Phillies won today’s game 4-3 thanks to an offensive outburst in the ninth, turning a mostly snoozy affair into belatedly exciting come-from-behind win.

For most of the first game of today’s doubleheader, the Phillies weren’t exactly unwatchable, but they were deeply, profoundly boring. Pretty much no one did anything other than what you expect. Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez was pretty iffy, failing to throw strikes early in counts. And the Phillies almost universally refused to take advantage, notching just four hits off him in 6.2 innings. It was infuriating. Most frustrating was the first inning, where the Phillies made Gonzalez throw 40 pitches and had two on due to a walk and double, only to end the inning with no runs. Through the first six innings, the Phillies had just two hits. Oy.

Hellickson’s performance left a fair amount to be desired, giving up three runs over five innings. Three runs? Fine. Five innings? No bueno. He only threw 75 pitches but was struggling badly, so I imagine that’s why Pete Mackanin took him out. But the string of shallow Phillies starts continues.

Through the first eight innings, the only thing worth talking about was Tommy Joseph’s fifth home run of the year, a solo shot off Gonzalez. It got the Phillies on the board, at least, right?

And then came the ninth inning. Oh, the ninth inning. The Nats have had their share of bullpen woes, and those woes walked naked down a busy street today so everyone could see them.

With the Nats on top 3-1, Dusty Baker sent Shawn Kelly to the mound to close out what was almost assuredly going to be a Nationals win. But Kelly allowed a lead-off home run to Aaron Altherr, which is frankly insane, and is Altherr even human? Has anyone checked to see if he has alien DNA like Jesse L. Martin in that baseball episode of the X-Files that David Duchovny wrote? Because this is getting freakish.

With the score 3-2 after Altherr’s home run, Tommy Joseph popped out, but then Maikel Franco doubled. He came home when Cameron Rupp doubled after Franco, which tied the game. Andrew Knapp replaced Rupp on second, and after a Freddy Galvis walk and a Nats pitching change, Knapp scored on a Ty Kelly single. In one inning, the Phillies had scored three runs and taken a 4-3 lead. Just how Mack drew it up.

But there was still the bottom of the ninth to worry about. Hector Neris got the save opportunity, and after allowing the lead-off batter to come aboard (and the tying run to continually come to the plate with every subsequent batter), he got a huge break. Michael Taylor popped up a bunt in foul territory and Andrew Knapp caught it for the first out. Whew. Ryan Zimmerman hit into what was almost a double play, but at least secured the second out. And Trea Turner hit the ball to Maikel Franco, who threw it to Tommy Joseph to get the third out.

The Phillies won, their first win of the year when trailing after eight innings. And it feels so good.

But because they’re the Phillies, they still have a chance to lose to the Nats today. They play one more tonight at 7:05p.m.