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.