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)

Mets promote Tim Tebow to high Class A St. Lucie

Mets promote Tim Tebow to high Class A St. Lucie

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tim Tebow is moving up and heading south -- to some very familiar territory.

Tebow has been promoted to the New York Mets' high Class A affiliate in St. Lucie, Florida. The 29-year-old Tebow led the University of Florida to two national championships in football and won the 2007 Heisman Trophy during his stellar career with the Gators.

"I'm not sure how much of an additional challenge it will be," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday in San Francisco. "Clearly it's a step up. I certainly think he can handle it."

Tebow began his first pro baseball season with Class A Columbia, drawing huge crowds at home and wherever the Fireflies went in the South Atlantic League. He entered his final Fireflies game batting .222 with three home runs and 23 RBIs.

"I wouldn't say he has excelled there, but at the same time, what he's done there -- given all the circumstances -- justified the promotion to Port St. Lucie," Alderson said.

Phillies play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

Phillies play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

PHOENIX -- Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick both tested their achy body parts on Sunday.

Eickhoff, on the disabled list with an upper back strain, threw two 15-pitch "innings" in the bullpen and was pleased with the results.

"It felt good, no sense of pulling," he said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Eickhoff's turn in the rotation will come up Wednesday in Seattle. If he can't make the start, Mark Leiter Jr. will. Leiter pitched six shutout innings in his first big-league start on Friday night.

As for Kendrick, who is battling left hamstring tightness, he was not in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game on Sunday. He did run some sprints under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan before the game.

"He still feels it, but he's available to pinch-hit," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Is this getting close to being a situation that would require a trip to the disabled list?

"Hopefully not," Mackanin said. "Hopefully he's better tomorrow. If not, I'm hoping he can at least DH in Seattle (on Tuesday). He's one of our best hitters and I want to get him in there. But I've got to be cautious."

Kendrick already spent six weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal injury earlier this season. He's played well when healthy, hitting .355 (43 for 121) with a .414 on-base percentage in 31 games.

The Phillies need to be certain that Kendrick is healthy when they turn him loose because he could hold some trade value in the month of July and a full-blown injury would hurt that.