Phillies defeat Nationals on Brown's walk-off hit

slideshow-061713-phillies-brown-ap.jpg

Phillies defeat Nationals on Brown's walk-off hit

BOX SCORE

Based on how things went on the Phillies’ 3-7 road trip against Milwaukee, Minnesota and Colorado, any way a win comes is a good thing.

That’s even the case for Monday night’s 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals in which the Phillies were poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, only to come through with a walk-off win (see Instant Replay).

Fortunately for the Phillies, they aren’t being judged for style points.

“It feels good to come out and get a win, especially after this long road trip,” Monday night’s hero, Dom Brown, said.

Even in victory -- finally sealed on Brown’s two-out, walk-off single in the ninth -- the same old issues reared its heads, masking a lot of the good developments with frustration.

Perhaps it all starts with closer Jonathan Papelbon’s first blown save of the season, his first since Sept. 2, 2012 and just his fifth in 56 opportunities since joining the Phillies. Papelbon cruised through the bottom third of the Nats’ lineup and was one strike away from closing out the game on three different pitches until late-game replacement Chad Tracy popped a game-tying homer on an 0-2 pitch.

How rough was that one? Considering that the opposition was just 4 for 44 with 27 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits on 0-2 counts against Papelbon in the last two seasons, it was pretty rough.

Given how things had been going for the Phillies lately, Papelbon’s first blown save was an ominous sign.

That is until Brown told Papelbon the team was going to bail him out.

“Man, it’s very big, especially when Pap’s going out there and he’s been great for us,” Brown said. “[Tracy] got a tough pitch to hit and he hit it out. I told [Papelbon] that we’re gonna fight for him and we’re gonna come out and win.”

Brown and the Phillies had plenty of chances to give Papelbon some breathing room. In fact, lately the Phillies have been pretty good at getting men on base. Monday night’s game was no different.

The trouble, as has been well documented this season, has been getting those men on base home.

That refrain was again evident on Monday.

The Phillies had the bases loaded with one out in the third inning, two on and no outs in the eighth, and two on and one out in the ninth. In going just 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position, the Phils left seven runners on base in those situations.

If it hadn’t been for an upper-deck homer from Ryan Howard to lead off the second and Delmon Young’s seeing-eye double with two outs in the third, runs would have been even tougher to come by.

Luckily for the Phillies, the Nationals had a tough time pushing runs across, too. Give the biggest credit to starting pitcher John Lannan and reliever Mike Stutes for that.

Lannan, in his first appearance for the Phillies in two months, was solid through five innings. He got eight outs on the ground, notched four strikeouts and in allowing a pair of runs on six hits, Lannan was in line for his first win as a Phillie and his first win since Sept. 26, 2012, when he beat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park while pitching for the Nationals.

“I wish I would have went a little deeper into the ballgame, but you just look for progress,” Lannan said. “In the fifth inning, I felt pretty good.”

Lannan looked good in the fifth inning, too. In retiring the side in order on 15 pitches, Lannan got three straight groundouts against the Nats’ No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters. That was especially important because it allowed Stutes to face the bottom portion of the lineup for two innings.

After retiring six straight hitters, Stutes turned a two-run lead over to Mike Adams in the eighth with Papelbon getting loose for the ninth.

What could go wrong?

“The two innings that Stutes gave us were very big,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s pretty good. He’s been throwing good.”

At 34-37, the Phillies are one game behind the Nationals and eight games behind the Braves in the NL East.

The Phillies and Nats continue their series on Tuesday night when Cliff Lee (8-2, 2.55) faces lefty Ross Detwiler (2-4, 3.02).

Lee has not faced the Nationals this season, but in eight career starts against them, the Phils’ lefty is 5-3 with a 2.51 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings.

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

usa-aaron-judge.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season, breaking Mark McGwire's major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the Yankees dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then, he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

"They kind of told me: `You got to go out there. You got to go out there,'" he would later recall. "First curtain call. I hope it was a good one."

Judge had his second straight two-homer game in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City on Monday. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied McGwire's 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right field seats (see full recap).

Russell makes food run, Cubs beat Cards to near clinch
ST. LOUIS -- Say cheese!

Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs were all smiles after moving within a victory of another division title Monday night.

Russell hit a three-run double in the first inning, then made a food run for a fan in enemy territory while the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2. Chicago can wrap up the division with a win Tuesday against the Cardinals or a loss by Milwaukee against Cincinnati.

Russell helped the Cubs get to starter Luke Weaver (7-2) early, then made some friends out of rival fans. After diving into the stands chasing a foul ball down the third-base line and spilling a man's tray of chips, Russell emerged from the dugout a few innings later with a plate of nachos and delivered it to the fan. Russell stopped to take a selfie before heading back to play shortstop.

"That was pretty entertaining," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said (see full recap).

Donaldson, Blue Jays stop Red Sox winning streak at 6
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist (see full recap).

Rangers fall to Astros, wild-card hopes fading
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.

Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.

Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros (see full recap).

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

BOX SCORE

Before beginning a season-ending six-game homestand Monday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin singled out Aaron Nola when asked about the positives of what is mostly a dismal 2017 season. 

“Nola has really established himself,” Mackanin said pregame. “To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

Nola then looked the part in what was likely his final start of the year, using a sharp curveball to strike out nine over six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“I felt like just the command and getting ahead of hitters helped out this year,” Nola said. 

Returning from elbow surgery that ended his 2016 season in July, Nola (12-11) became the best starter on the team thanks to the development of a changeup in spring training to go with his fastball and dominant curveball. 

“I felt a lot stronger,” the soft-spoken Nola said when asked to sum up his season. “I felt like I was using my legs more and that increased my velocity a little bit.” 

Nola allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 27 starts. His 184 strikeouts are the most by a Phillies pitcher who made fewer than 30 starts in a season. 

“I wouldn’t call him a power pitcher. He doesn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher,” Mackanin said. “But when you can locate your fastball and get ahead with your fastball down in the strike zone and have that kind of curveball and then you add that kind of changeup, now the hitter has three pitches to worry about.”

He struck out 36 over his final four starts and 25 1/3 innings, using his sweeping curve as an out pitch. All but one of his strikeouts Monday night came on the curve. 

“It’s been good,” Nola said. “I’ve been able to command it on both sides of the plate and down, which has helped me. I felt like my fastball command was better this year than it was last year.” 

In a rotation in which basically nothing else is settled, Nola gives the Phillies an anchor for next season. The 24-year-old LSU product has a 3.54 ERA and the changeup gives him three quality pitches. 

“It’s been kind of the cherry on top, a little bit, being able to throw that right-on-right,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re a left-handed hitter. But when you’re right-handed and coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.” 

Nola retired the first four hitters before Jayson Werth singled and Michael A. Taylor followed by crushing a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 17th homer. 

It was the 18th home run allowed by Nola. But he got into a groove from there. Facing a lineup without Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, Nola held the NL East champions to two runs and five hits with two walks. 

But it didn’t prevent the Phillies from losing for the fourth time in five games. 

Odubel Herrera’s solo home run on an 0-2 pitch from A.J. Cole (3-5) in the fourth was all the offense the Phillies could muster. They’ve managed seven runs in four games. 

Rhys Hoskins is slumping (0 for 4 and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14) and Nick Williams struck out three times. 

“Our bats have gone silent for a few days now,” Mackanin said. 

They still have to win one more to avoid 100 losses, and many changes are possible in the offseason. Mackanin said before the game that “I still don’t know if I’ll be back here next year," (see story)

It’s a team that still has plenty of holes and lots of questions ahead of 2018. 

Nola, though, appears to be someone they can rely on. 

“The goal is to have five [reliable] guys on every start. But it’s nice,” Mackanin said. “When Nola pitches, we all expect to win. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s had the arm issues, but he came back from that better than he was before.”