Some late heroics kept the Phillies from losing game one of their doubleheader on Sunday, but due to some continued Bryce Harper dominance, Pat Neshek’s first earned runs of the season, and Joe West’s finger-wagging, they were unable to finish the sweep.
So, what happened out there? Vince Velasquez got the ball for the Phillies and, in typical VV fashion, needed over thirty pitches to get the hell out of the first inning. Bryce Harper started an eye-rolling 3-for-4 night with an RBI single in the third. But the Phillies’ fourth inning saw them take their inevitable lead that they would be also inevitably unable to hold. With Aaron Altherr on first, Michael Saunders bounced a 100 m.p.h. line drive off Nats starter Max Scherzer’s foot, who appeared seriously injured for a moment, but to Dusty Baker’s relief, his pitcher was only in intense, temporary pain. Scherzer remained on the mound and gave up singles to Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp that gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Scherzer fed off the agony, I guess, because he struck out the side on nine pitches the next inning. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper happened again all over the fifth inning, this time with an RBI double that made it 3-2 after some other teammate of his hit a sac fly. Who even cares who it was. Velasquez got out of the inning without letting the Nats break it open, but departed once more in the fifth, having allowed five hits, two earned runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. He was not aided by a Cesar Hernandez error.
Andres Blanco singled in Michael Saunders following a lead-off double in the sixth and tied it at 3-3. But of course, in the bottom half of the inning, a dusted-off Brian Goodwin doubled in a run to make it 4-3 Nationals. It was a real see-saw, this one, but everybody took the seventh inning off so they could say hello to their mothers.
Just kidding. The seventh belonged to the umpires. Hernandez tried to bunt his way on, and the umps ruled that he had run into his own batted ball, and was thusly out. This would be true, unless of course Hernandez was still in the batters box when making contact with the ball, which he was. The umpires reviewed the footage - the same footage everyone else was looking at - and decided that, eh, it wasn’t reviewable.
That took two seconds/ended with Joe West wagging his finger at the Phillies dugout, Mutumbo style. 15-plus innings in, this is where we are— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 15, 2017
Odubel Herrera flew out with little incident, but then one of the National League’s premiere hitters came to the plate in Aaron Altherr, who fouled a ball off his foot that home plate umpire Andy Fletcher, having clearly been stung by two separate bees in both of his eyeballs, decided was a ground-out. Altherr tried to explain to Fletcher that a ball that hits a player in the foot is not a live ball, but Fletcher, in his infinite wisdom, managed to explain that he didn’t feel like having his call be anything but correct. This is what happens when you're umpiring next to Joe West twice in one day.
Tommy Joseph slipped into the lineup for Brock Stassi in the eighth and worked a walk, later scoring with Michael Saunders on a two-run Freddy Galvis triple that gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead - their last of the day. Saunders actually scored three times in this game, and had a potentially wrist-breaking running catch in the outfield to give Velasquez a much-needed quick second inning. Pat Neshek took the mound in the eighth, following one and a third scoreless innings from Edubray Ramos.
Then, Michael Taylor, as I was describing him as the one hole in the Nationals’ lineup on The Felske Files, hit a go-ahead two-run home run to give Washington a 6-5 lead in the eighth off Neshek. In my defense, Taylor had struck out three times on the day. The Phillies’ best hitters, Hernandez, Herrera, and Altherr, went 1-2-3 to seal the deal.
Matt Albers tapped into some of his favorite vocabulary words for the win.
You decide what you think Matt Albers said after the game ended pic.twitter.com/qsNwRTVpNE— Nick Piccone (@nickpiccone) May 15, 2017
The Nationals’ bullpen is quite bad, and the Phillies have played close games against the division leaders in everyone of their many, many early-season contests. This game alone saw four lead changes. We can look forward to a couple of things here: not playing Washington again until September, and the knowledge that the Nationals’ bullpen is going to blow some heartbreaking games for them in the long run - and probably contribute to their inevitable early playoff exit.
Have a great summer, guys.