WASHINGTON — The Phillies didn’t play baseball perfectly against the Washington Nationals, but that didn’t seem to matter because festive music blared at the club after 12 hours on the field late Friday night.
Phils survived a series of fouls that included leaving too many runners at base in the opener and costly walking, two key running fouls and a near-fatal field foul in the Night Cup to sweep the Nationals.
Velez took the opening game, 5-3. The second match was fierce and Phils won it 8-7.
The two wins propelled the Phils to a top four of the season over 0.500 at 35-31. They’ve had their first three matches from this quintet and have now won five straight series for the first time since 2011, the last time they made the playoffs.
Phils 14-2 in June and 13-2 under new captain Rob Thompson.
“Great day,” Thompson said when he finished.
He admitted that the team overcame some mistakes during the long, hot and exhausting day.
“That’s just the character of this club,” he said. “they think.”
The biggest reason the Phillies were able to cover their flaws in the Cup of the Night – blunders by Reese Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber, two ruined tracks and an unruly pitch by Nick Nelson in the sixth, and a blunder by Diddy Gregory that allowed the Nats to do just that. They tied the match at the bottom of the ninth – they did some small things well.
JT Realmuto overcame a potential double ball to keep the eighth inning alive as discuser Bryce Harper came off the bench and hit the ball twice to center right.
It was obvious that Kyle Finnegan was trying to get around Harper and seemed to be walking with him on four pitches. However, referee Clinton Fondrak called the fourth pitch, which was outside the strike zone, into a hit. Harper wasn’t happy with the call—and he wasn’t after the match. Finnegan’s fifth throw was a hit and Harper was crushed.
“Harper was upset because it wasn’t the fourth ball, but I was like, ‘Good, let him hit,’” Thompson said. “GT hitting that ball and getting Harper to the plate was really key.”
Realmuto was called up initially, but Velez challenged and won.
After Harper tied Game 8, Matt Ferling pinned Homer’s second belt in the match at the top of the ninth to give Phils a 6-5 lead.
The Phillies went deep into their sheds that day. Corey Nebel, Giorres Familia and Andrew Pelati had major teams in the World Cup night and Jose Alvarado was on the verge of ending one win in the ninth round when Gregorios made a two-time throw-in that allowed Washington to draw.
Alvarado finally ended up closing in on the bottom 10th. He took the win after Realmuto scored two runs. The run was huge because the Nats scored an unearned run to make it a one-run game in the tenth.
Hoskins scored the second in the 10th thanks to another of those little things, specifically third base coach Dusty Wathan’s knowledge of the fouling rule. Washington quarterback Luis Garcia interfered with Hoskins’ way to third as Realmuto’s ball went up the middle. Wathan noticed the blockage, saw Third Governor John Bacon’s hand raised, and waved furiously to Hoskins’ house to make sure the run would make an impact.
“Dusty knows the rule,” Thompson said. “Leaked. Really clever.”
“It just shows how cool he is at baseball,” Harper said of Wathan.
Velez is already going to that play in spring training. It rarely happens, but when it did in this game, everyone was ready.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Velez losing a game like this in the first two months of the season, when the offense was so inconsistent, the Bulls had accidental collapses and the defense was shaky.
Defense and Bullpen are still far from perfect, but things are getting better.
“We find ways to win games that we probably shouldn’t and that’s what good teams do,” Hoskins said. “I don’t think we ever feel like we’re out of the game. It has a lot to do with the way we swing the bats, but I also think the bulls guys have been great lately, attacking the area and when we score we throw some zeros.”
The Phils won the first game in three hours and 32 minutes.
They won their second game in three hours and 45 minutes.
“It was a great day for baseball,” Harper said. “Win the series today with two more games hoping to do a good job and get out of here in good shape.”
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