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Phillies Take First Against Nationals; Gain Ground in NL East Race: Phillies 7, Nats 5

The Philadelphia Phillies took the first game in a four game series against the Washington Nationals, while also closing the gap in the NL East.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Philadelphia Phillies made the decision to move Ranger Suarez from the bullpen to the rotation and have him start on Monday, you knew the game would be. . . interesting.

Suarez went three innings and only gave up one hit while issuing one walk, all on just 33 pitches. Manager Joe Girardi opted to pull Suarez after three innings of work and put Hector Neris in the game. For many, it was a head-scratching move by Girardi. However, it was earlier reported that Suarez would be allowed three innings or 50 pitches, whichever came first.

It is possible that Suarez was fatigued, or perhaps his outing through three was exactly what they were hoping for and wanted to pull the plug for his headspace. Either way, it was a good showing and he will be stretched out.

The issue with bringing Suarez into the fold for a rotation spot is that you are effectively utilizing a bullpen game, but with Ranger starting. Which also means that someone has to take his place in an already thin bullpen. It also leads to a pitcher like Enyel De Los Santos pitching in higher leverage situations than what he has been used to this season. Almost like clockwork in lending credence to the naysayers, he gave up a home run to pinch hitter Andrew Stevenson. That homerun tied things up in the sixth 1-1.

The seventh inning got weird. Segura scored on a pass ball, but despite having men on second and third, Philadelphia’s threat came to an end when Harper decided to tag third and beat a shallow hit ball to left home. He was called out, ending the inning.

Alvarado came back out for the seventh, and stop me if you have heard this, but loaded the bases, prompting Girardi to call on Archie Bradley and a double switch, which saw Bohm take over at first and Torreyes to third. And, that didn’t work either. As, wait for it. . . Nationals pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman snuck one into left scoring two more for Washington. Bradley mercifully induced a double play to end the seventh.

Philadelphia was then able to plate a few runs after an RBI double by Jean Segura to tie the game and then a JT Realmuto single with the bases loaded to add two more in the ninth. All of that occurred with zero outs on the board. Alec Bohm then got in on the action and the Phillies solidified their lead. All of it can be attributed to one thing, the Phillies secret weapon on Monday night: the praying mantis.

The Nationals would not go quietly as new Phillie Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth in a non-save situation to a Carter Kieboom home run. He hasn’t looked great since joining the Phillies, but it could be for a number of factors. I’m urging caution and patience with Kennedy for just a while longer.

Thanks to the benevolence of the praying mantis, the Phillies completed a comeback win, the New York Mets loss, and Philadelphia gained ground in the NL East race and now sit 2.5 games back. On to the next as the Phils win 7-5. Or 6-5. No one knows, not even the official scorer.