This one had "bummer" written all over it. The Phillies scrapped to a 4-2 lead through five, and Antonio Bastardo cleaned up a Mike Adams-induced eighth inning jam to get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th with a one-run lead still in tact. Pap's perfect season looked to remain in tact with an easy first two outs and an 0-2 count on Nats pinch-hitter Chad Tracy, a .141 hitter to that point. But wouldn't you know it? That darned Tracy clocked a fly ball just over the wall in right, and Pap had his first blown save of the season, another back-breaker in a recent stretch of tough baseball for the Philly Phaithful.
However, a leadoff hit from Ben Revere in the bottom of the ninth, and a well-executed hit-and-run on a Jimmy Rollins single, and suddenly the Phils had a chance to let Papelbon off the hook. Domonic Brown would do just that, delivering a base knock up the middle with two outs to score Revere, and getting Pap his first W--his first decision of any kind, actually--on the season. Final score: Phils 5, Nats 4.
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Though the shaky bullpen work robbed him of his first win in a Phillies uniform, John Lannan overcame a shaky start to give the Phils five solid innings of work, allowing just two runs on six innings and a walk--about as good an outing as we could expect from our fifth (sixth?) starter against his old ballclub in his first game since going down with a knee injury. Michael Stutes held down the fort with two innings of spotless work, before Adams and Papelbon gummed up the works late.
The real heroics of the night came on the other side of the ball, particularly from the aforementioned Revere and the forever-streaky Ryan Howard. Ben Revere is in the midst of easily the best stretch of his thusfar shaky debut season for the Phils, going 2-5 tonight with a steal and the game-winning run, stretching his hit streak to eight games, double the length of any other such streak he's had as a Phillie. As a leadoff guy who doesn't walk much and basically hits for zero power, Revere has to at least hit near .300 to be any kind of useful to the club, so it's encouraging to see him at least get up into the mid-.270s after spending much of the season struggling to even get to the quarter mark.
Howard was undoubtedly player of the game, however, going 3-3 with a walk and a homer--his first for the month of June, somewhat depressingly. Though Howard's power has been disturbingly sapped of late, he's still seeing the ball remarkably well, hitting .346 for the month with nine walks, after hitting just .254 with ten walks total for the season before June. He may not ever be the home-run masher that he was in the late '00s again, but as long as he's squaring up the ball this consistently, drawing walks and not striking out too much (under one K a game for the month, no small feat for Ryno), he can still be a net positive for the team offensively.
And while you might not say Dom busted out of his mini-slump this game--any game where he doesn't homer is still something of a subconscious disappointment at this point--he certainly had his most productive outing in a while. After going seven games without collecting multiple hits, Dom went 2-4 tonight with another walk--his ninth this month, after going all of May without a BB--including the game-winning hit. He did have a rough bases-loaded punchout in the third inning, which ended in the ugliest swing-and-miss third strike we've seen from the Domonator since his hot streak commenced last month, but it's still mostly good swings for Dom, and hey, any night at the plate that ends with you being tackled by Jon Papelbon and whip-creamed by Freddy Galvis is a pretty good night.
One final note on this one: Charlie Manuel again substituted Michael Martinez for Ryan Howard on the basepaths late in this one, with Howard on second with no outs and a 4-3 lead, and it again came back to bite the Phils as Martinez was left stranded at second, and Howard's batting spot came up in a critical moment in the ninth, with Charlie forced to go with the super-sparingly-used reserve Steve Lerud at the plate, rather than the guy who went 3-3 with a homer and a walk in his first four PAs. Lerud quickly whiffed, failing to cash in Ben Revere from third, and Dom was left to save the day with two outs. I understand why Charlie goes with those late-game substitutions, but I never like it, and hopefully another night like tonight will convince him that the risk really outweighs the reward when it comes to pinch-running for your big bats late in the game.
Anyway, a good early blow for the Phils in this NL East three-gamer, bringing the Phils back within a game of Washington for second in the division. Cliff Lee takes the hill tomorrow night against Ross Detwiler with a chance to pull the Phils to even--though I doubt many would have guessed at season's start that the two teams would be vying for second in the East with a couple of sub-.500 records. We'd take it for now, anyway.
— Dan McQuade (@dhm) June 18, 2013