Phillies' bullpen can't hold Aaron Nola's lead in 3-2 loss to Nationals

Phillies' bullpen can't hold Aaron Nola's lead in 3-2 loss to Nationals

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WASHINGTON -- When Aaron Nola pitched against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park last week, his team scored 17 runs. An offensive output like that allows a club to sweep a lot of problems under the rug.

Nola returned to the mound against that same Nationals team on Friday and this time runs were scarce. With no margin for error, the Phillies suffered a 3-2 loss in 10 innings (see Instant Replay).

It was their fourth straight loss as they fell to 3-7.

The Nats won it when their lethal mid-order tandem of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy struck for a single and an RBI double to open the bottom of the 10th inning.

Harper finished a first-to-home dash with a headfirst dive across home plate. Both of the Nats' hits in the decisive 10th came against the beleaguered Jeanmar Gomez, who last week lost the closer's job after a ninth-inning implosion against these same Nationals.

Gomez came into a tie game in the ninth and pitched a scoreless frame. He stayed on for the 10th and did not get an out.

"That's his job now, to give us multiple innings," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Murphy's game-winning double came on a 1-1 sinker. Murphy, hitting .444, stayed on the pitch and served it down the left-field line.

Gomez has pitched 5 1/3 innings this season and given up seven runs. His confidence appears to be badly wounded. Now the challenge is finding a role where he can rebuild it.

Nola had a nice start. His pitches had some pop and movement and his breaking ball was sharp. However, he was not economical with his pitches and exited after five innings with a 2-1 lead. He threw 90 pitches.

So it became a bullpen game.

Pat Neshek delivered a scoreless sixth.

Mackanin then went to Edubray Ramos for the seventh. He gave up a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey. Two batters later, with two outs, Anthony Rendon crushed a first-pitch fastball off the wall in right-center to push home the tying run. After walking, Heisey had moved up to second on a passed ball charged to Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp. With two outs, chances are Heisey would have scored the tying run even if he had stayed at first base.

Hector Neris pitched a scoreless eighth to keep the game tied, and, with the specter of extra innings looming, Mackanin was looking for length when he went to Gomez in the ninth.

"It's all about handling pitching," Mackanin said. "I thought about Neris for a second inning, but I don't want to get into that rut we were in last year where every close game we're using up our guys and you get into August and September and they run out of gas. Six of one, half-dozen of the other."

Mackanin said he did not want to use his only lefty, rookie Joely Rodriguez, against lefty hitters Harper and Murphy in the 10th "because they both hit lefties well."

In the end, Gomez took the loss, but Ramos' walk to Heisey was quite damaging because it set up the tying run.

A week ago, on the night the Phillies scored 17 runs against the Nats, a seventh-inning walk doesn't kill you. But it cuts deep when your team gets just six hits and scores just two runs in 10 innings.

Stephen Strasburg pitched seven innings of two-run ball for the Nats and the bullpen did the rest.

Michael Saunders had a couple of hits for the Phils. Tommy Joseph belted his first homer of the season and Cesar Hernandez drove home the Phils' second run with a two-out single in the fifth, following Rupp's leadoff double.

"Other than that, not enough offense," Mackanin lamented.

Other than the high pitch count, Nola's outing was heartening, especially considering that he missed the final two months of last season with an elbow injury that had the entire organization concerned.

The right-hander gave up six hits and a run. He walked none and struck out six.

"The story for me was Nola," Mackanin said. "He gave us five good innings -- a few too many pitches. I could have sent him back out for one more but I'm trying to be careful with him."

Said Nola: "My stuff felt good. I feel like I threw a lot of pitches. I definitely want to go deeper than five innings and save some of the bullpen arms. You know you have Strasburg on the mound and you know runs are going to be pretty limited. But other than that, my body felt good. We battled a good team."

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

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Brock Stassi's toe hurt.
 
Maikel Franco's ribs and head hurt.
 
Pain never felt so good.
 
The Phillies pulled off their most dramatic win of the young season when they rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, at chilly Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco completed a three-RBI night when he smacked a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to right to give the Phillies the walk-off win. It was the Phillies' third straight win and fifth in the last seven games as they improved to 8-9 with a chance to sweep a series and even their record at .500 on Sunday afternoon.
 
Franco will be in the lineup.
 
But he might need a couple of Advil to get going.
 
After his game-winning hit, Franco was hilariously chased into right field by his euphoric teammates. The Phillies third baseman absorbed a beat down with Andres Blanco delivering a blow to the top of Franco's head.
 
"You see that -- boom!" Blanco said in the happy clubhouse after that game.  
 
Franco did more than see it.

He felt it.
 
"Whitey got me," he said, laughing and pointing to his head and ribs. "My body is screaming right now."
 
Across the clubhouse, Stassi was feeling Franco's pain. His foot got stepped on during the happy scrum.
 
"My toe is killing me," he said with a laugh.
 
Stassi, too, might need an Advil before Sunday's game. He has a good chance to be in the lineup at first base because Tommy Joseph seems like a candidate for a day off after a tough night. Joseph made a costly throwing error in the top of the 10th inning that helped the Braves take a 3-2 lead.
 
Stassi helped rescue the Phillies from that deficit. His 10th inning single was the first of three one-out hits that the Phils collected against Braves' closer Jim Johnson. With the bases loaded, Johnson made Odubel Herrera look bad with a swinging strikeout for the second out. That brought up Franco. New hitting coach Matt Stairs is constantly encouraging Franco to use the whole field and that's just what the cleanup man did in lacing a liner to the warning track in right.

"To right field! How 'bout that," manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
It was Franco's second single of the night. He would have been awarded a game-winning double if he had reached second base. But, alas, he was chased into right field.
 
In the clubhouse after the game, Franco was told by a club official that he could have had a double had he touched second.
 
Franco's eyes widened in disbelief.
 
"Ah, Mikey!" he said, scolding himself.
 
Then he laughed.
 
Across the clubhouse, Joseph could laugh about the miscue that saw him throw to an empty third base after a sacrifice bunt in the 10th. With everything moving fast, he mistook shortstop Freddy Galvis for a baserunner as Galvis streaked to cover third.
 
Joseph's error put a man on third and the Braves scored the go-ahead run on an infield hit.
 
The ironic part about Joseph's error was the Phillies played excellent defense -- Herrera and Aaron Altherr made great catches in the outfield and Galvis was Galvis at short -- until the 10th.
 
They pitched well, too, from starter Jerad Eickhoff's five innings of one-run ball to the stingy relief work of Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Pat Neshek. They teamed on three shutout innings.
 
With his top late-game tandem of Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris in need of a night off, Mackanin asked Edubray Ramos to close it out. Ramos struck out the first two batters in the ninth and was one out away from his first big-league save when Brandon Phillips unloaded on a hanging slider to tie the game at 2-2.
 
Ramos rebounded and got the final out of the inning. As he walked off the field, he covered his mouth with his glove and shouted. Best guess: He said a naughty word. But ultimately his teammates got him off the hook. Parts of it were pretty. Parts of it were ugly. But when the night was over, the Phillies had a win.
 
"It was really a wacky game," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We played well overall, then there was a flurry of activity at the end."
 
Mackanin reached for a bottle of water.
 
"I'm going to drink more of this Smart Water," he said. "It's a happy day."

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez mentioned the tasty Latin food served in the visitors' clubhouse. And the airplanes that fly overhead. And the pretty features of the ballpark.

But if there's a real reason why the Washington lefty is so successful at Citi Field, he isn't saying.

"Any secrets?" he offered. "No."

Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at the Mets' stadium, and the Nationals beat New York 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory (see full recap).

Contreras' slam powers Arrieta, Cubs to 12-8 win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple (see full recap).

Homers by Mancini, Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2
BALTIMORE -- Just when it appeared Steven Wright had finally gained command of his fluttering knuckleball, the Baltimore Orioles found their groove.

The result: Another early exit for the 2016 All-Star in Boston's 4-2 loss Saturday night.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Orioles used one big inning to secure their fourth straight victory (see full recap).

Simmons belts grand slam to lead Angels past Blue Jays 5-4
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking grand slam, Tyler Skaggs pitched into the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 Saturday night.

Simmons cleared the bases in the third inning off Casey Lawrence (0-2) for his second career grand slam, helping the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for the second time in 11 games.

Skaggs (1-1) gave up a run in the first but settled down to hold the Blue Jays to five hits over the next six innings, getting the Blue Jays to hit into three double plays along the way. He was lifted after Ryan Goins doubled to lead off the eighth (see full recap).