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Late Afternoon Knapp: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

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Andrew Knapp’s pinch hit home run in the 13th inning gives the Phillies the win

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t often that the heroes of a Phillies game include both Andrew Knapp and the entirety of the bullpen. But on Sunday afternoon, the relievers combined for eight shutout innings, giving Knapp a chance to win the game in the bottom of the 13th(!) inning with a pinch hit home run.

Here are the highlights:

The Bullpen Held

After needing a combined 14.1 relief innings on Friday and Saturday, the Phillies were hoping that they wouldn’t need to call on their bullpen much on Sunday. They thought with Jake Arrieta scheduled to start, there was a decent chance he’d pitch deep into the game and give the beleaguered relievers a break.

So much for that. Arrieta was only able to cover five of the game’s thirteen innings, which left a heavy burden for the bullpen to cover. Surprisingly, they got the job done, not allowing a run in their eight innings.

Austin Davis, Pat Neshek (welcome back!), Tommy Hunter, Mark Leiter, Adam Morgan, Jake Thompson, and Victor Arano were all called upon to make appearances of varying lengths, and while there were some shaky moments, ultimately all of them got the job done.

Kapler might have been a bit too aggressive in his pitching changes early on, because by the time the 13th rolled around, he was forced to call on starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. If you recall, Pivetta started the game on Friday night and it didn’t go particularly well. On Sunday afternoon, he redeemed himself, pitching a scoreless inning to earn the win.

It’s probably good the Phillies won the game when they did, because it isn’t clear if they planned to actually send a pitcher out if the game reached the 14th inning.

The Defense Failed Arrieta Again

The Phillies defense has been poor all season when Jake Arrieta pitches, and Sunday was no exception. In the fourth inning, a throwing error by Jorge Alfaro allowed a runner to reach second base and later score on a sacrifice fly. In the fifth, a wild pitch (which arguably should have been a passed ball) advanced Mark Reynolds to second base where he was able to score on Adam Eaton’s single.

The Phillies All-Too-Brief Rally

The Phillies’ bats were quiet early in the game against Gio Gonzalez, but in the fifth, they used a small ball approach to get on the board. Jesmuel Valentin walked and Nick Williams singled. With two men aboard and one out, Gabe Kapler chose to pinch hit Carlos Santana for Arrieta. The gamble paid off as Santana walked to load the bases.

That set up Cesar Hernandez who brought home the first run with a walk, Rhys Hoskins plated another with a sacrifice fly, and then Odubel Herrera tied it up with a single to right. The three-run outburst tied the game, but unfortunately, the Phillies wouldn’t score another run for the next seven innings.

Knapp Time

When the game reached the 13th inning, it seemed as if the game might never end. Most of the fans in attendance had long-ago withered in the early July heat, and those left conscious were probably hoping that somebody - anybody - would just end the game. Andrew Knapp heard their cries:

The Gauntlet is Over

The victory gave the Phillies a 3-1 series win over the Nationals, and marks the end of the supposedly difficult part of the schedule. The Phillies enter July in good shape, currently holding the National League’s second wild card spot. With an “easier” stretch of the schedule ahead, they have a great opportunity to shore up their playoff standing heading into the stretch run.