Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

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Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON – Andres Blanco made the most of a rare start. He homered and doubled to lead the Phillies to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

The win pushed the Phillies’ early-season record to 10-10. They are 2-2 against the Nationals, who entered the game with the best record in the majors.

Blanco had a two-run homer in the first. He scored the go-ahead run after doubling in the seventh.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez gave up three runs in six innings. He struck out four. He exited with a one-run lead after throwing just 84 pitches. The Phillies seem to be making an effort to watch Velasquez’s pitch count after he threw 113 pitches in his 16-strikeout game against San Diego on April 14.

Velasquez is 3-1.

Washington’s Max Scherzer went six innings and allowed seven hits and three runs. One of the hits was a two-run homer by Blanco, the second batter of the game. Scherzer battled command issues and a high pitch count. He walked four, but was able to pitch out of trouble several times with the help of seven strikeouts.

Bullpen report
The Phillies’ bullpen pitched three scoreless innings.

David Hernandez pitched out of trouble to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out Ryan Zimmerman looking at a breaking ball for the third out with two men on base. Hernandez has 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.

Hector Neris pitched a scoreless eighth. Jeanmar Gomez earned his fifth save and it was a gutsy one. He retired dangerous Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, on a grounder to third to end the game with the tying run on first base.

Washington lefty Oliver Perez took the loss.

At the plate
Blanco got the start at shortstop in place of resting Freddy Galvis. He delivered big. He smacked a two-run homer in the first inning and doubled and scored the go-ahead run on a double by Maikel Franco in the seventh. He finished the night with three hits.

Franco has nine RBIs in four games on this trip.

Cesar Hernandez had three singles.

Odubel Herrera was on base three times. He has reached base in 17 straight games.

The Nationals scored their first run on a successful safety squeeze bunt by Danny Espinosa in the second inning. Harper and Zimmerman both had RBI singles with two outs in the fifth.

In the field
Franco made a great diving play at third base to save a run in the third inning. However, he made a poor decision trying to turn a 5-3 double play instead of going around the horn and it probably cost the Phillies two runs in the fifth.

Health check
Charlie Morton could be out for an extended period of time with a strained left hamstring. Adam Morgan will take his spot in the rotation (see story).

Transaction
Outfielder Cedric Hunter cleared waivers and was taken off the 40-man roster. Hunter, who was the Phillies’ opening-day leftfielder, remains at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Up next
The series continues Wednesday night. Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 5.21) opposes lefty Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.42).

Despite series finale loss to Dodgers, Phillies show they can 'compete with the best teams in the league'

Despite series finale loss to Dodgers, Phillies show they can 'compete with the best teams in the league'

BOX SCORE

In the end, things reverted to form: The Dodgers won and the Phillies lost.

The Dodgers are headed to the playoffs, the Phillies to who-knows-where.

Los Angeles scored twice in the seventh inning Thursday afternoon to beat the Phils, 5-4, and salvage the finale of a four-game series (see observations).

The Dodgers, the majors’ best team at 97-56, lowered their magic number to one for clinching a fifth straight NL West championship. The Phils, baseball’s second-worst team at 61-92, were left with a lovely parting gift: hope.

“I think it’s a good lesson,” J.P. Crawford, the rookie shortstop-turned-third baseman, said of the series as a whole. “It showed us, or showed me, we can compete with the best teams in the league. Just can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us.”

Crawford, the 16th overall pick in 2013, drew three walks in four plate appearances and fielded eight chances flawlessly, at least four of which could be described as moderately difficult.

In addition, Mark Leiter Jr. pitched six strong innings, Rhys Hoskins did another Rhys Hoskins thing — i.e., hit a two-run double in the fifth — and Nick Williams launched a two-run homer.

So it was that the Phillies finished the homestand with a 7-3 record. They have won eight of their last 12, and are 32-34 since the All-Star break, after going 29-58 beforehand.

There are those who question how much it means for an also-ran to excel in September, when the pressure is off. It would appear that Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is not among those people. He mentioned in particular how valuable it is for his young relievers to face teams in the thick of the race.

“To get this kind of experience is worth a lot,” he said. “It’s a big part of this year.”

One of those relievers, Ricardo Pinto, faltered Thursday, allowing those two seventh-inning runs to take the loss. But Leiter, who had pitched to a 9.39 ERA in three previous September starts, allowed just one earned run on five hits over his six innings of work. He struck out three and walked one.

So it’s one for his résumé going forward. And he said a strong finish to the season — the Phils have nine games left — is “important for everybody.”

“I don't know if it's more important for us than other teams,” he said, “but you want to finish strong and start strong. Those are the goals. That's baseball. You're going to have some ups and downs, and to take a series is a good thing.”

Crawford, called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley on Sept. 5, hit .200 without a walk in his first six major-league games. In his last nine, he is slashing .296/.474/.481, with 10 walks and seven strikeouts in 38 plate appearances.

“Just a matter of getting my feet settled down,” he said, “and just being comfortable in the box.”

“It’s good to see,” Mackanin said. “He was advertised as someone who controls the strike zone and he’s proven that he can do that. Walk’s as good as a hit — the old saying. He keeps innings alive and he doesn’t expand the strike zone, he makes the pitcher get him out and he’ll take a walk, which is important.”

Speaking generally about such an approach (and not about Crawford in particular), Mackanin only had one small reservation.

“One of the problems with a guy who walks too often is you’d like him to be a little more aggressive at times,” he said, “but in general it’s good to see.”

Crawford made his eighth start at third base, and while he doesn’t possess the power bat normally required of someone who plays the position, he certainly looks like he can hold his own with the glove.

“There’s not really much transition,” he said. “I’m just going over there, reacting, catching the ball, throwing the ball.”

If nothing else, he gives the Phillies a possible alternative to Maikel Franco, who has struggled all year.

And if nothing else, the team as a whole has shown there is some reason for hope.

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Phils lose, 5-4, fail to sweep MLB-best Dodgers

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Phils lose, 5-4, fail to sweep MLB-best Dodgers

BOX SCORE

The Los Angeles Dodgers scored twice in the seventh inning to take the lead for good, en route to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.

Los Angeles, which salvaged the last game of the four-game series and snapped a four-game losing streak, sliced its magic number to clinch its fifth straight NL West championship to one.

The Phillies finished a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 mark, and lost for just the fourth time in 12 games.

With the Dodgers down, 4-3, veteran outfielder Andre Ethier led off the eighth with a pinch-hit homer off Phils reliever Ricardo Pinto (1-2). Chris Taylor followed with a triple, and one out later Cody Bellinger drove him in with a grounder to Rhys Hoskins at first base.

Warren Buehler (1-0), the fourth of seven Dodgers pitchers, earned the victory with an inning of scoreless relief. Kenley Jansen worked 1 1/3 innings to earn his 39th save.

Here are some observations:

• Hoskins gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead when he smoked a 2-0 offering from Los Angeles reliever Josh Fields, a 98-mph fastball, up the gap in left-center for a two-run double in the fifth. 

• Nick Williams hit a first-pitch changeup from Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda for an opposite-field two-run homer in the third, erasing a 2-0 deficit. It was Williams’ 11th homer in 74 games with the Phillies this season.

• J.P. Crawford, a natural shortstop, made no fewer than four outstanding plays at third base, the first two on groundballs off the bat of Logan Forsythe, and the last two on bouncers by Austin Barnes. In the second, Crawford dove to his left to snag Forsythe’s smash and threw to second for the force, and in the fourth he short-hopped a slowly hit bouncer and fired to first. In the fifth, Crawford ranged to his left to flag down Barnes’ grounder, and with Taylor at third and the infield up in the seventh again, Crawford snagged a ball off Barnes’ bat. The runner, Taylor, wound up scoring anyway, on Bellinger’s infield out.

 • Mark Leiter Jr. was left with a no-decision after going six innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits, while striking out three and walking one. The first two batters he faced in the top of the first reached, but only one of them scored, on Yasiel Puig’s sacrifice fly. Leiter surrendered an unearned run in the third, and Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the sixth.

• Victor Arano had quite the adventure in his inning on the mound. He entered in the eighth inning, after Hoby Milner walked pinch-hitter Kiki Hernandez, and proceeded to strike out the next two hitters. Then he walked two, to loaded the bases, before retiring Taylor on a groundout to end the inning. Arano threw 21 pitches, 10 for strikes. 

• Maeda departed after three innings, having allowed two runs on three hits.

• The Phillies saw their 100-inning errorless string end five pitches into the game, when leftfielder Aaron Altherr misplayed a single by Taylor, the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.  

• Los Angeles 3B Justin Turner was hit on the right hand by a Leiter pitch in the first inning. He later left the game, and while X-rays were negative, he was diagnosed with a bruised thumb.

• The Phillies’ final road trip of the season consists of three games, beginning Friday in Atlanta. RHP Ben Lively (3-6, 3.94) opposes LHP Sean Newcomb (3-8, 4.32).