The Philadelphia Phillies have received just enough pitching and offense to split the first two games in their series with the visiting Washington Nationals.
On Saturday, the Phillies used a strong bullpen performance and a big home run from Andrew McCutchen to win 5-2 despite getting only six hits.
On Sunday, Philadelphia will look for its first series win since mid-May against the Nationals in Washington. The Nationals have lost two of three and seven of their last 10.
McCutchen’s three-run homer capped a four-run fourth inning that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead on Saturday. Philadelphia knocked in runs on three of its six hits.
One of those came on an eighth-inning single from Bryce Harper, who was making his return after a stint on the disabled list due to a bruised wrist. That gave the Phillies some needed insurance and the 5-2 lead.
“I’m ready to go,” Harper said. “When I step on the field, I try to bring passion into what I do every single day. I’m excited to get out there and grind with my guys.”
Philadelphia went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and those timely hits paid off.
The Phillies lost closer Hector Neris to the paternity list earlier in the day. Connor Brogdon filled that role in Saturday’s win by closing it in the ninth, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts.
Ranger Suarez (1-0) got the win with three scoreless innings in relief. He did not allow a hit or a walk, and struck out three. He stretched his scoreless streak to 12 1/3 innings.
The Phillies will start Vince Velasquez (2-1, 4.08) in the series finale. He’s 2-2 with a 4.62 career ERA in nine games, including eight starts, against the Nationals.
Sunday was supposed to be Stephen Strasburg’s turn in the Washington rotation, but now he’s on the injured list with a neck strain, and manager Davey Martinez said after Saturday’s loss that they would make it a bullpen game but haven’t decided who is going to be the opener.
Regardless of their pitcher, the Nationals’ offense is going to have to show some life. The Nationals have scored only four runs in this series — two in Friday’s victory in the series opener — and can’t seem to get the big hits at the right times.
On Friday, Washington went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four. It was 0-for-8 and left 10 on base on Saturday.
Martinez said there’s no other solution than to keep trying.
“We have to keep grinding,” Martinez said. “Sometimes I feel like we’re really close to busting out of it. Today just wasn’t that day.”
The problems the offense had Saturday ruined a good six-inning effort from starter Joe Ross (2-6). He gave up four runs — all unearned — on just three hits. He struck out four and walked just two.
Nationals catcher Yan Gomes missed his third straight game with a right hamstring problem. Martinez said he’s day-to-day.
–Field Level Media