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Altherr-native Ending: Phillies 6, Nationals 5

The Phillies seemed destined to lose this one, until Aaron Altherr entered the game in the eighth.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

For a time, today’s matinee seemed deserving of this post’s original title ("Bland Finale"). Not only were the Phillies going to be flaccidly defeated as the final chapter of a series sweep by the easily division-leading Nationals, but the long-feared stretch against the Dodgers, Cubs, and Nats would be coming to a horrid close. Swept out of L.A., battered at Wrigley, and now smothered in their own home, the Phillies looked helpless, and even unwilling at times, to fight back. Pop-outs. Three-pitch ABs. GIDPs. Nothing looked good, as their sole sign of life was the constant farting of their brains.

With the mood dreary, the weather fickle, and Aaron Altherr held out for his third straight game, there seemed little reason to tune in. Unfortunately for the players, they had to be there, and managed to at the very least successfully cast shadows (in instances when the sun appeared).

Jeremy Hellickson got the ball, hoping to give the Phillies the steady-as-she-goes start to which they’ve become accustomed. But Hellboy ran into a Jayson Werth with steam coming out of his ears, and fell victim to the deranged outfielder on two occasions as part of Werth’s 4-for-5 day (2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R). Allowing three earned runs on five hits, three walks, and a wild pitch got Hellickson the early hook in the fifth, leaving the comeback victory in the hands of the Phillies’ directionless bullpen.

Jake Thompson covered the first two frames of relief, and matched Hellickson’s walk total while letting the Nationals keep stomping on the plate.

When the smoke cleared, Thompson’s low velocity and zero command had given Washington two more runs, for a total of five. Pat Neshek plowed through the next 1.1 innings with no further damage.

Meanwhile, the lineup jogged and gaffed its ways into two runs, courtesy of Freddy Galvis. Entering the ninth, the Phillies were 2-for-7 with RISP, and those two came on Freddy’s fourth inning double that resulted in him getting thrown out between second and third in some eye-rolling jackassery that killed the rally in its crib. Nobody looked particularly good against Tanner Roark, who went six innings without earning a run, despite walking three and allowing all of two hits.

So, the late innings arrived. The sky swallowed the sun and began spitting moisture on the baseball below in disgust. The Phillies were down 5-2 and short on heroes.

Having lucked their way on base in the eighth with some barely-touched ground balls by Cesar Hernandez and Daniel Nava, Pete Mackanin went to his bench. Fortunately for the skipper, Maikel Franco had been swapped out as part of a double switch, giving him the option of Altherr, who launched the Phillies’ first pinch hit home run of the season and tied the game at 5-5 and gave this game the desperate alternative ending it barely deserved.

Hector Neris was granted permission to enter the ninth and threw only the second 1-2-3 inning the Phillies’ defense had seen on the day. Trouble was, the offense still needed a run. The Phillies did load the bases with one out, and after some - get this - extremely poor decision-making at the plate, zero runs came in to score. Which meant extra innings, exposing the rawest portions of the Phillies’ bullpen underbelly.

But it was Neris who came back out, and with the help of Odubel Herrera killing himself on a catch, kept Washington down. The Phillies’ bottom half of the extra ball saw them load the bases once more - this time with no outs - in a rally that included Vince Velasquez pinch hitting for Cameron Rupp (to be fair, it was so he could lay down a bunt, something I can’t see Rupp doing with too much prowess).

After an Andres Blanco K, Freddy Galvis came to the plate with one out and the objective to - seriously - just get the ball out of the infield. Galvis completed the only real solid day at the plate by hitting a deep enough ball to score Odubel Herrera from third. Jayson Werth tried to make some kind of argument to the umpires about something or other but nobody felt like hanging around.

And who cares? The Nationals will shrug this one - their tenth loss of the season, aww - off and go back to the Mid-Atlantic, where they can wait all of four games to beat up on the Phillies again.

It was a win; the Phillies first in give games and second of their last ten.

Some parting thoughts from an exhausting stretch:

  • Aaron Altherr is a starter.
  • Max Scherzer isn’t afraid to boo Philly back.
  • The Phillies would be 9-1 over this stretch if the games had all been immediately rained out after they’d taken the lead.