Nats Win Bullpen Blowup Battle with the Phillies

Or perhaps you can say more accurately the Phillies won, since their bullpen was the last to blow a lead. The Phillies bullpen let a 4-0 lead disappear on Friday, giving up a walk off Bryce Harper homerun. The Nationals returned the favor on Friday giving away a 3-0 lead, allowing three runs in the top of the ninth. After the Nationals let a 4-3 lead escape in the top of the eighth the Phillies Pat Neshek was lit up in the bottom of the eighth by a Micahel Taylor two run homer. Dusty Baker turned to the only bullpen guy that has been getting hitters out, a pitcher released by the Orioles who has the least velocity on the team, Matt Albers. He got the save by retiring the Phillies in order. Despite his lack of stuff he could be the bullpen answer because he gets outs.

The Nationals drew first blood in the bottom of the third, taking advantage of a Cesar Hernandez error on a hard bouncer hit by Trea Turner that bounced off the foot of Hernandez. A wild pitch advanced Turner to second where he scored on a Bryce Harper single. Bryce tried to advance to second on the throw, but Brock Stassi cut the ball off and easily threw Harper out at second.

In the top of the fourth the Phillies took advantage of video replay to show a ball glanced off the knee of Aaron Altherr. Michael Saunders rocketed a shot off the knee of Max Scherzer, who spent the next five minutes hobbling around the mound. He did not seem as sharp after he was hit. Brock Stassi slapped a single through the hole in right field to tie the game at 1-1 and Andrew Knapp rifled a single to right to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

The Nationals recaptured the lead in the fifth. Despite throwing between 95-98 Vince Velasquez struggled. Jose Lobaton hit a shot that rolled into the gap in right center to hustle it into a double. Lobaton again used his legs to advance to third on a fly out to right by Max Scherzer. The throw from Michael Saunders was a little off line. Trea Turner lifted one to left and again Lobaton used his legs to race home, barely beating the throw from Aaron Altherr. Chris Heisey kept the inning alive with a single. Bryce Harper smacked his third hit of the day, pulling a pitch into the right field corner for a double and scoring Heisey from first for a 3-2 lead.

Scherzer could not hold the lead in the sixth. Michael Saunders opened the inning with a double against the right centerfield wall. Andres Blanco drove him in with a single. The inning could have been worse. With runners on first and second and two out Daniel Nava bounced a single up the middle. Trea Turner made a diving stop to prevent it from going into centerfield. Stassi had rounded third, Turner threw it to third and Rendon fired home to get Stassi at the plate for the third out and prevent the Phillies from taking the lead.

The Nationals took the lead back after a leadoff single and stolen base from Anthony Rendon. With a runner on second and two out Dusty Baker chose to pinch hit Brian Goodwin instead of Adam Lind. Goodwin poked a double into the left field corner just over the outstretched glove of Aaron Altherr.

It does not matter who Dusty Baker brings in as a reliever. All of them have failed to protect the lead. Shawn Kelly and Koda Glover were failures in the opener. Baker tried Matt Grace and Jacob Turner in game two. Grace was successful in his first inning of work, retiring the side in order. In his second inning he threw four straight balls to lefthanded hitter Michael Saunders. With a runner on second and one out and Tommy Joseph pinch hitting for lefthander Brock Stassi Baker went with Jacob Turner from the right side. Turner walked Joseph and Freddy Galvis gave the Phillies the lead with a two run triple. The boos rained in on the bullpen for blowing another lead. Turner was able to strike out Andrew Knapp with Galvis at third and one out, and got Ty Kelly to fly out to left to keep the Philly lead at one.

It was the Phillies turn to blow a lead. That task went to Pat Neshek. He gave up an Anthony Rendon single and then the two run shot by Michael Taylor that hit the foul pole in left field. The two runs were the first to be given up by Neshek.

Dusty Baker went to the Nationals most effective reliever Matt Albers. He retired the Phillies in order in the ninth to give the Nationals a win.

Game Notes: Max Scherzer struck out the side in the fifth inning on nine pitches. That ties a record held by many…Ryan Zimmerman made a lob throw to second on a double play grounder. A crisper throw may have gotten a double play. He was rescued by Trea Turner who made a diving stop on a grounder up the middle and threw out the runner at home, who should have been erased on a double play…It was Trea Turner bobble head day…Vince Velasquez throws the ball hard, with his fastball consistently hitting 95-98. You wonder why his ERA is at 5.63. He struck out the first two hitters he faced, then showed his wildness giving up a hit and walking two to load the bases. He threw close to 30 pitches in the first inning…Michael Taylor struck out his first three times up, failing to make contact with the ball on 12 pitches. Dusty Baker stuck with him in the eighth and he came through with a big two run homer, hitting the first pitch thrown by Neshek…Cesar Hernandez was called out on a bunt attempt after the ball hit him out of the batter’s box. The Phillies asked for a review and when the umpires put the headsets on to get a ruling they were told this event was not reviewable…Only three teams have a worse ERA than the Nationals bullpen of 5.20 (Mariners, Padres and Tigers). The Phillies bullpen is not that far ahead at 4.77. The Phillies are tied with the Rays and Mariners for most blown saves at 9. The Nationals only have 7 blown saves. The Phillies bullpen is tied with the Mariners for giving up the most homeruns at 24. The Nationals are not that far behind giving up 20, but they have been a little stingy giving up homeruns the last week. The Nationals .484 slugging percentage is the worst in the major leagues. The Phillies are next to last at .470. The worst AL team is the Tigers at .468.

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