Bryce is just right for Nats in ninth
NATIONALS 6, PHILLIES 4 Harper gets new deal, then blasts winning HR
Fatigue was not an issue for the Washington Nationals as they began their fourth series in five weeks against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Nationals Park. Their games the previous two days, including Friday’s scheduled series opener, were rained out, affording them an unusual two-day stretch. Manager Dusty Baker likened the interval to a mini all-star break, but he wondered whether the disruption would have ill effects.
“Everybody’s rested, but it’s not a day off,” Baker said. “It’s not a mental rest.”
Bryce Harper managed to stay sharp through the downtime, and he continued to dominate the Phillies in the Nationals’ 6-4 win. On the day he agreed to a one-year, $21.625 million deal for
2018 season, Harper crushed his second walk-off home run of the season against the Phillies, a two-run shot to straightaway center field off right-hander Edubray Ramos. It was Harper’s 11th home run of the season and 19th of his career against the Phillies, and it came after the Nationals’ bullpen — bolstered by the returns of Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley — tossed 41/3 scoreless innings.
Neither Glover nor Kelley allowed a hit, with Kelley (3-0) collecting the win as the Nationals improved to 23-12.
The starting pitchers were perhaps the most impacted by the deluge. Washington’s Tanner Roark and Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta were scheduled to start Friday and pushed back to Saturday. Pivetta, a 24-year-old former Nationals farmhand sent to Philadelphia two summers ago for Jonathan Papelbon, was making just his third major league start. Roark, meanwhile, had grown accustomed to having his starts impacted by weather and pitched early on as if the interruption was immaterial.
Donning a bold combination of light pink socks and white cleats as part of baseball’s Mother’s Day weekend celebration, Roark faced the minimum through three innings thanks to a couple double plays. But the Phillies (13-20) worked him, and he entered the fourth with 46 pitches. It was reminiscent of last Sunday in Philadelphia, when Roark allowed two unearned over six innings but needed 100 pitches.
The toil caught up with him in the fourth inning. Cesar Hernandez, who has emerged as one of baseball’s best hitters through six weeks, led off with a walk. He then stole second as Roark recorded two outs and threatened to strand him. But Roark then walked Tommy Joseph on four pitches before surrendering a two-out RBI single to Michael Saunders. Maikel Franco followed with another single to load the bases for Cameron Rupp, who capitalized with a two-run single to center field.
Roark had thrown 86 pitches for 12 outs by the inning’s conclusion. He needed another 24 pitches to secure two more before Baker pulled him with runners on first and second in the fifth. Baker went to Joe Blanton, who immediately surrendered an RBI double to Joseph. The four runs — all with two outs — nearly matched the five earned runs Roark had allowed across 47 innings in seven starts against the Phillies since the beginning of 2016.
Pivetta breezed through four innings on 60 pitches, but he didn’t last any longer than his counterpart because the Nationals’ bats woke from their slumber with their own two-out surge in fifth. Two batters after Michael A. Taylor doubled, Trea Turner launched a line drive over the wall in right-center field for a two-out, two-run home run. Pivetta then issued consecutive walks to Jayson Werth and Harper before Ryan Zimmerman delivered a two-run double to rightcenter field.
The double hiked Zimmerthe man’s batting average back over the .400 mark and his RBI total to 36. It also concluded Pivetta’s outing at 42/3 innings.
A battle between two of baseball’s worst bullpens ensued. Both sides went back and forth keeping the other side off the board until the ninth. The Phillies used four relievers for their 31/3 scoreless innings. Washingthe ton also needed four. One of them was Glover, who entered the game with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh inning. Glover tripped delivering his first pitch and issued a walk to the first batter he faced since April 25. But he recovered to secure the inning’s third out and retired the side in the eighth.
Kelley was given the ninth. He granted two walks but escaped the jam by striking out Odubel Herrera and getting Aaron Altherr to ground out to the shortstop.
Harper made certain the Phillies were unable to survive another inning, beating Ramos to cap a big day for both his wallet and his ballclub.
Bryce Harper, who agreed to a one-year deal for the 2018 season earlier in the day, hit a walk-off homer with two outs in the ninth.
Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark threw 110 pitches and couldn’t make it out of the fifth, but Bryce Harper eventually saved the day.