7th Heaven for Phillies in Win Over Nats


1. 90. 4. 6. Final

Friday night’s game did not begin well for the Philadelphia Phillies and starting pitcher Jerome Williams. Washington Nationals leadoff hitter Michael Taylor (no, he is not the former Phils prospect by the same name) launched a line smash solo homer into the near-empty left field stands.

So the Phillies were behind by 1-0 just moments into the game, and with the anemic state of the team’s offense in this first week of the season continuing, that seemed as if it would be enough for much of the night.

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Nationals lefty starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (yes, he is the former Phils prospect by the same name) proceeded to keep the home team bats off the scoreboard through the first 6 innings, even though he got into trouble a few times along the way.

The Phillies actually had a shot in their half of the first inning. Ben Revere led off with a single. But the game’s 2nd key moment came next, as Gonzalez picked him off first base. Revere took off, but was easily thrown out at 2nd.

It would prove to be a potentially costly baserunning gaffe, as Gonzalez later walked Freddy Galvis (who went 3-3 with a walk on the night) and Darin Ruf in the frame. The Nats lefty escaped damage by forcing ground outs off the bats of Chase Utley and Jeff Francoeur.

At that point, the game settled into a pattern of Williams slicing up the Nationals injury-depleted batting order, and the Phillies squandering chance after chance against Gonzalez. Finally in the bottom of the 7th, they would not squander their chance.

Williams made some good adjustments since spring training. He really spotted the ball well, kept them off-balance, and made quality pitches.” ~ Sandberg

Still trailing 1-0, with Gonzalez still on the mound, the Phils half of the 7th started quietly enough, as Francoeur flew out. But then Gonzalez got wild. He walked both Grady Sizemore and Ruf, and Sizemore was replaced for pinch-runner Odubel Herrera. Andres Blanco, who got the start at 3rd base, was then hit on the elbow by a pitch to load the bases.

Nats skipper Matt Williams then decided he had seen enough of his starter, and replaced Gonzalez with bullpen arm Xavier Cedeno. Phils skipper Ryne Sandberg sent Cesar Hernandez up to hit for Luis Garcia, who had come in for Williams and tossed a perfect top of the 7th.

Apr 10, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA;

Hernandez (16) hits a two RBI single against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won 4-1.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez delivered, slicing an opposite-field, 2-run double down the right field line to put the Phils ahead. Revere was then hit by a pitch, again loading the bases. Galvis followed with a base hit to right, scoring Blanco, putting the Phillies up 3-1. When Utley followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1, the Phillies had put up their first crooked number of the young season.

After the game, Sandberg was in an understandably chipper mood: “A good win, a good win. A team effort, and a good way to start the weekend and start this series. Williams made some good adjustments since spring training. He really spotted the ball well, kept them off-balance, and made quality pitches.

At that point, the Fightins had the Nats right where they wanted them, right where they will want every opponent this season: down headed to the last couple of innings. Ken Giles came on for the 8th, and worked around a Yunel Escobar double by striking out both Taylor and Bryce Harper, the former swinging and the latter looking, to hold the lead.

In the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon came on for the Save, setting down the Nationals 1-2-3 to wrap things up. It was the 108th career Save as a Phillies closer for Paps, moving him within 4 of tying Jose Mesa at the top of the club all-time list.

Not many of those fans showed up to watch this one in person. The official announced attendance of 19,047 was the lowest total in the history of Citizens Bank Park, now in its 12th season of existence.

In no way could it be said that the Phillies offense banged the ball all over the yard, the way they did back in the good old days of last decade. But they broke through finally, and on this night, against this Nationals lineup, that was enough for a win.

So the Phillies fought back to the .500 mark at 2-2. Meanwhile, the division favorite Nationals are now 1-3. Who knows how long such early season standings will hold up? But for now, it’s absolutely better than the alternative, and more than any Phillies fan had a right to hope.