Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Nationals 3

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A rough ninth inning from (likely soon not to be) closer Jeanmar Gomez spoiled eight terrific, shutout innings from four Phillies' pitchers but also set up Cesar Hernandez's walk-off single Sunday afternoon.

With runners on second and third and two outs, Hernandez blooped a ball to shallow left field just out of Jayson Werth's reach to give the Phillies a 4-3 victory and their first series win of the season.

The game came to that only because Gomez failed in the top of the ninth, putting two men on before Ryan Zimmerman destroyed a cookie from him for a three-run homer.

The Nationals had done nothing at the plate the previous eight innings, getting only two legitimate scoring chances against Jeremy Hellickson, Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris.

Hellickson lasted just five innings and was forced to exit before the sixth with a right forearm cramp (see story).

Hellickson had been cruising, allowing just one hit over five shutout innings on 70 pitches. He batted in the previous half-inning and grounded out, then exited after a few warmup pitches in the top of the sixth.

Starting pitching report
Maybe it's just noise, but Hellickson has been a completely different pitcher during day games dating back to 2014. 

Over that time he has a 3.08 ERA and .210 opponents' batting average in day games compared to a 4.58 ERA and .275 opponents' batting average at night.

Through two starts this season, Hellickson is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA but has lasted just five innings in both games.

Still, he set the Phillies up for a win Sunday, even if it was the slowest-paced five shutout innings you'll see.

Strasburg had a rare misstep at Citizens Bank Park. Entering Sunday, he had a 1.12 ERA in seven career starts here. His three earned runs were the most he's allowed in Philly. He struck out eight, including Odubel Herrera and Howie Kendrick twice apiece.

Bullpen report
How much longer will Gomez stay in the closer's role? He gave up a two-run, opposite-field homer to Scooter Gennett in the season opener and couldn't protect a three-run lead Sunday. There was no doubt about Zimmerman's homer, which continued the theme dating back to last September of Gomez too often finding the barrel of his opponent's bat. 

Benoit, Neshek and Neris had combined to pitch three scoreless innings before Gomez entered.

Neris had a little blip in the eighth, walking pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo and going 3-0 to Adam Eaton with the heart of the Nationals' order due up next. But he came all the way back to strike out Eaton and ended the inning with a strikeout of Bryce Harper.

Neris, Benoit and Neshek so far this season: 9 innings, 0 runs, 8 baserunners, 10 strikeouts.

Hernandez's game-winning single came off Nats reliever Koda Glover.

At the plate
Hernandez drove in two of the Phillies' four runs with the game-winning hit and a fourth-inning infield single.

All of the Phillies' runs came with two outs.

Freddy Galvis knocked in the first run with a two-out single in the second. Howie Kendrick's double scored Hernandez two innings later.

Galvis' single would have been a routine groundout if not for the Nationals' over-shifting him to pull. It was a pretty confusing decision -- was Galvis really a threat to sharply pull a 97 mph fastball from Strasburg?

The Phillies had a pretty good approach against Strasburg. Maikel Franco walked twice against him and lined out sharply to center.

Herrera had a hard-hit single to center in the first inning, his National League-leading 13th time on base already this season.

Before the ninth inning, the Nationals put men in scoring position only twice.

Save that ball
Catcher Andrew Knapp picked up his first big-league hit in his second career start. It was a double down the third-base line. Two innings earlier, Knapp worked a key walk that extended the inning for Galvis' run-scoring single.

Up next
The Phillies begin a three-game home series with the Mets on Monday. The pitching matchups:

Monday: Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.70) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.00)
Tuesday: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 7.20) vs. Matt Harvey (1-0, 2.70)
Wednesday: Vince Velasquez (0-1, 9.00) vs. Zach Wheeler (0-1, 11.25)

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5

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LOS ANGELES — The Phillies suffered a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

The Phillies took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning but the Dodgers tied the game on three straight, no-out solo homers against Hector Neris.

The Dodgers got two more hits in the inning before Adrian Gonzalez won it with a two-out RBI infield hit against Joely Rodriguez.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin stacked his lineup with lefty hitters and it paid off as Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Andrew Knapp accounted for five RBIs. But they all went by the wayside in one quick, disastrous inning.

The Phils have lost two in a row.

And this one was bad.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin held the Dodgers to four hits and two runs over seven walk-free innings. Both of the runs came on solo homers, one in the first inning and one in the seventh. Otherwise, Eflin retired 11 hitters by groundout and four by strikeout.

Eflin has given up just four earned runs in 19 innings over three starts this season. He has walked just three.

Brandon McCarthy gave up a season-high four runs on eight hits and a walk.

Bullpen report
Joaquin Benoit struck out Yasmani Grandal, the potential tying run, with two men on base to end the eighth inning.

Neris blew the save and took the loss.

At the plate
Stassi's second homer of the season, a three-run shot to left-center off McCarthy in the fourth, gave the Phils a 3-1 lead. He started at first in place of slumping Tommy Joseph.

Knapp started at catcher in place of Cameron Rupp. He responded with a single, double and home run. The homer was his first in the majors.

Andrew Toles led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer for the Dodgers. Rookie Cody Bellinger added a homer in the seventh.

Yasiel Puig, Bellinger and Justin Turner hit consecutive solo homers with no outs in the ninth to tie the game.

In the field
Odubel Herrera made a long run and a terrific lunging catch to take away extra bases from Puig in the fourth.

Chase Utley made an error at second base for the Dodgers.

Health check
Aaron Nola's back is still an issue. Howie Kendrick remains on the DL with an oblique injury, but he could be an option at first base when he returns if Joseph's bat continues to slumber (see story).

Up next
The three-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Nick Pivetta will make his major-league debut for the Phillies. He will face Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64).

The Phillies acquired Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington in July 2015. He was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just two walks in three starts at Triple A before being called up.

Reliever Luis Garcia was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley after Saturday night's game to make room for Pivetta.

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

LOS ANGELES — Aaron Nola is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but that's not going to happen.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Saturday indicated that the pitcher's recovery from a lower back strain was not going as smoothly as hoped.

Did Nola experience a setback?

"If you want to call it that," Mackanin said.

Nola threw a bullpen session on Friday and, according to Mackanin, did not bounce back as well as hoped.

"After he completed it, he had some symptoms, some soreness or tightness, I guess," Mackanin said. "It was decided he will not make his start on Monday. He will be reevaluated to determine his next bullpen.

"A couple of days ago he said he felt great and then [Friday] not so great. He's improving but he's not 100 percent. There's something bugging him. We're just going to take it day to day. We're being cautious with him this early in the season."

Nola experienced soreness in his lower back after his last start, April 20 against the Mets. The Phils have been filling the opening on their pitching staff with reliever Mark Leiter Jr. Nick Pivetta will be activated on Sunday and make his major-league debut with a start against the Dodgers.

Kendrick works at first base
First baseman Tommy Joseph and catcher Cameron Rupp, both hitting under .200, were not in the starting lineup on Saturday night as Mackanin went heavy on lefty hitters against Dodgers' righty Brandon McCarthy.

Mackanin stressed that he doesn't like to make judgments on hitters until they get around the 100 at-bat mark — Joseph has 63; Rupp 50 — but it's worth noting that first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher Jorge Alfaro are both off to hot starts at Triple A and could be eventual replacements if the club looks for more production.

There also could be another option brewing at first base.

Howie Kendrick has worked at first base during batting practice the last two days. On Friday, he merely tracked balls off the bat and worked on first-step breaks. He did so with a regular fielder's glove.

But on Saturday, Kendrick brought his first baseman's mitt to the field. He took some groundballs and throws from across the diamond.

This stuff doesn't happen just by accident.

Over an 11-season career, Kendrick has played in 89 games at first base. He opened the season as the Phillies' leftfielder and hit .333 (13 for 39) with an .883 OPS before suffering an oblique injury two weeks ago in Washington. Kendrick probably needs at least another week of recovery time before coming off the disabled list, but it's now reasonable to wonder if he will go back to left field or get time at first base when he returns. Using Kendrick at first would allow the Phillies to keep Aaron Altherr's bat in the lineup in left field.

Joseph can have a say in all this if he gets his bat going. He is hitting .190 (12 for 63) with just a .505 OPS.

Last May, it was Joseph who earned his way to the majors after his hot start in Triple A coincided with Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf struggling in the majors. Joseph got 347 plate appearances in the majors last season and hit .257 with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and a .813 OPS.