Phillies Take Series in DC
By Matt Veasey
That Phillies tied the game in dramatic fashion, looked on as the Nationals brawled with one another in their dugout, then exploded for 8 runs in the top of the 9th to win going away by a 12-5 score.
With the victory, the Phils took their first series in a month, winning two of three games over the weekend against what is perhaps the most disappointing team in all of Major League Baseball.
The supremely talented Nationals could not overcome numerous injuries, questionable front office and managerial moves, and their own egos during a season which they began as World Series favorites. Now eliminated from any postseason play, they will finish out the final week of the regular season playing for nothing.
The internal disintegration of the DC team was on full display in the bottom of the 8th inning. With the scored knotted at 4-4, star outfielder Bryce Harper flew out to left field leading off the bottom of the 8th. Seems innocent enough.
However, Harper didn’t finish running out the play, and Papelbon yelled “You’ve got to run that (bleeping) ball out” at him as the 22-year old star returned to the dugout, per MLB.com’s Jacob Ebert.
This led to a verbal exchange between the two, and then Papelbon physically attacked Harper, grabbing him angrily by the throat and slamming him towards the dugout wall. Harper wrestled Papelbon around as teammates swarmed to break up the skirmish.
“Sometimes in this game there’s a lot of testosterone and there’s a lot of intensity that spills over, and I think that happened today,” said Papelbon, per Ebert. “For me, I can’t allow that to happen in the middle of a game. You handle that after the games or allow the manager to handle that. In that light of it, I’m wrong.”
Phillies fans had to be watching with knowing amusement, if not pure joy. Papelbon’s attitude is well-known and little-regarded here in Philly, and the disintegration of the Nationals season began right after the trade of the closer to Washington.
Up to that point, this was a listless game between two teams finishing out the schedule that suddenly turned a big interesting late. The Nats took a 4-2 lead into the top of the 8th built by their power.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Ian Desmond and Matt den Dekker powered two-out, solo homers to put the hosts up 2-0. The Phils tied it up in the top of the 6th when Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez came unravelled. Gonzalez allowed three single to load the bases with nobody out, then walked in a pair of runs before finally being pulled.
Entering that 6th, Gonzalez had been shutting the Phillies out on 3 hits. He left having allowed the 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 3 walks over just 5 official innings.
The Phillies still had the bases loaded and nobody out. But a pair of Nationals relievers put the fire out with no further damage and the score went to the bottom of the 7th tied at 2-2.
On the mound for the Phillies was Aaron Harang, who continued to battle through the 6th. Harang would allow just 2 earned on 5 hits and a walk over his 6 innings. It was his 13th Quality Start of the 28 he has made this season.
In that bottom of the 7th, the first two batters of the inning singled off Phils’ reliever Jeanmar Gomez, and then Jose Lobaton drilled a 2-run double that put Washington on top by 4-2.
That set the stage for the unexpected drama of the 8th. Aaron Altherr led off with a double off Nats’ reliever Casey Janssen. Then with oneÂ out, Jeff Francoeur played the hero for the umpteenth time this season, lining a game-tying, 2-run homer to left field. It was the 13th home run of the season for the popular Frenchy.
With the game tied, we moved to the bottom of the 8th, and the Nationals’ display of frustrated “Notitude” in the home dugout. The Phillies had gained noticeable energy in the game, while the host Nats were clearly in disarray.
Papelbon, who had come on to finish out the 8th inning, was sent back out to pitch the 9th by embattled Nationals’ skipper Matt Williams. He struck out the leadoff man, but then the Phillies began to rally against the man who was a lightening rod over 3 1/2 seasons here during which he became the Phils’ all-time franchise Saves leader.
After Freddy Galvis walked on four pitches, Andres Blanco drove a 2-run homer, his 6th of the season, over the wall in dead center to put the Phillies on top by 6-4. Then with two outs and a man on, Papelbon hit Odubel Herrera with a pitch, and that was the end of his ugly night.
Sammy Solis came on to pitch for Washington, and the game got away quickly. The Nats 2nd error of the inning allowed a run to score that made it 7-4, and then Cameron Rupp grounded a 2-run single up the box that pushed the Phillies’ lead out to 9-4.
One batter later, Galvis ripped a two-run single, and was followed by an RBI single from Blanco, and the rout was on at 12-4. The turn around in this game was sudden and dramatic, getting away from the Nationals in just the same manner as their season had since the trade deadline deal that brought Papelbon to them.
Since that July 31st MLB non-waiver trade deadline, Washington has gone 25-30, and fallen from first place with a 3-game lead to runner-up status, now 9.5 games behind the division-winning New York Mets.
Phillies closer Ken Giles allowed a run in the bottom of the 9th, but struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced swinging, including Reed Johnson to end it.
The series victory was the Phils first since taking 2 of 3 at home vs San Diego at the end of August, and was their first road series victory since winning 3 of 4 at Miami in the middle of August.
The Phillies now return home for the final half-dozen games of the 2015 season, with 3 each against the Mets and Marlins. Their ‘Magic Number’ to clinch the worst record in baseball and the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft now sits at just 3 over Atlanta.