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April 09, 2017

How the Phillies were able to take weekend series from Nationals

On Saturday night, the Phillies' made beating the Nationals look easy as they posted 12 first-inning runs and cruised to a 17-3 victory and even the series at game a piece – they dropped the home opener, 7-6, on Friday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon in the decisive series finale, offense wasn't nearly as easy to come by for the Phillies, although that's to be expected when facing Stephen Strasburg. But thanks to an impressive start from Jeremy Hellickson and some clutch hitting by a few different Phillies – all four of their runs came with two outs – it didn't much matter.

Hellickson, who allowed just one hit in five innings, didn't pick up the win – you don't really want to know why, but we'll get to that eventually – but the Phillies did, 4-3, thanks to a walk-off single by Cesar Hernandez. 

With the win, the Phillies improved to 3-3 on the young season and took a series from the Nets at Citizens Bank Park for the first time since April 10-12, 2015 – they did, however, sweep the Nationals in D.C. in April 2016.

Here's how they were able to do it:



Through the first five games of the season, the top three batters in the Phillies order – for the most part Cesar Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera – were hitting a combined .366 (22-for-60) with 11 extra base hits, 13 runs scored and a ridiculous .449 OBP.

On Sunday, all three reached base at least once yet again.

For Herrera, he now has a hit in every game this season, thanks to a first-inning single, to go along with five walks. Howie Kendrick finished 1-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk. 

But the real hero was the leadoff batter, Hernandez. After Gomez blew the save in the top of the ninth, the Phillies second baseman came through with a clutch two-out walk-off single to left field. 

He also had an RBI infield single and scored a run earlier in the game and finished 2-for-5 in the win, improving his average to .269 on the season.

Here's a look at the slash lines for the Phillies' top three hitters through the first six games of the season:

•  Hernandez: .269/.321/.538
•  Kendrick: .429/.478/.667
•  Herrera: .364/.481/.455

Not too shabby.


The Phillies have also been getting some help from the bottom of their order. Namely, Freddy Galvis.

In the second inning, one that saw Strasburg throw 32 pitches, Galvis worked a nine-pitch at-bat with two outs and two runners on. That at-bat ended with Galvis driving in the game's first run on a single through the shift.

Galvis came through again in the bottom of the ninth with his second single of the game. This time, he moved pinch hitter Daniel Nava over to third with one out. Two batters later, Hernandez would get Nava home for the game-winning run.

On the season, Galvis is now slashing .286/.304/.667.


The Phillies finished with four runs on seven hits on Sunday, which after Saturday night's performance doesn't seem like a whole lot. But, like we said, it was enough to pick up the win, especially considering four of those seven hits drove in runs ... and all four came with two outs.

Here's a look at where their offense ranked heading into play Sunday:

R 31 2
H 44 9
2B 11 5
3B 4 1
HR 8 2
BB 21 3
BA .262 4
OBP .339 6
SLG .518 2
OPS .856 3
TB 87 3

And that’s good because their pitching has been suspect at times.



The Phillies were cruising early in the game, even after Hellickson had to leave with that hand injury. The Nationals were held to just three hits (and no runs) through the first eight innings on Sunday before Jeanmar Gomez entered the game. The Phillies closer allowed three hits, including a three-run, game-tying, pinch-hit home run to Ryan Zimmerman.

Gomez has now made three appearances this season, pitching an inning in each. Unfortunately, he's allowed multiple runs in two of them.

4/3 at CIN 1.0 2 2 0 1 1
4/7 vs. WSN 1.0 0 0 0 2 0
4/9 vs. WSN1.033111
TOTAL 3.0 5 5 1 4 2

All five of those runs have come via home run. And after his latest outing, Pete Mackanin didn't sound certain that Gomez would still be his closer the next time the Phillies take the field.

"I'm going to have a talk with him tomorrow," Mackanin said of Gomez (via "I'll have something for you tomorrow. I need to talk with him."

Here's more from the manager:


So who could replace Gomez? More on that in a bit, but first, a look at the starting rotation.


Jeremy Hellickson became the first member of the Phillies rotation to make his second start of the season on Sunday, and up until his early exit, things were looking very good. After the game, Pete Mackanin said he didn't expect Hellickson's injury to be anything serious, which is a good thing.

He's been the Phillies best pitcher so far – although, to be fair, he's the only one with the benefit of two starts. With his five scoreless innings against the Nationals, Hellickson lowered his season ERA to 0.90. His final line on Sunday: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 70 pitches (44 strikes).

Here's a look at what the rest of the Phillies rotation did in their first start of the season:

Eickhoff L 6.2 5 2 6-1 2.70
Nola W 6.0 7 3 7-2 4.50
Buchholz N/D 5.0 8 4 3-2 7.20
Velasquez L 4.0 5 4 10-3 9.00 

As you'll notice, Phillies starters haven't gone deep into many games – even Hellickson, for as well as he's pitched, has only thrown 10 total innings in his two starts. Luckily, they've been getting some help from their middle relief.


If Mackanin does opt for a change in the back-end of his bullpen, there definitely are options for him, especially given how some of these guys have looked in the season's early going.

The three relievers the Phillies used prior to handing the ball to Gomez in the ninth – Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris  – combined to throw three scoreless innings on Sunday, allowing just two hits and two walks. 

Edubray Ramos 3 3.2 3 0 4-1 1.0910.00
Joely Rodriguez 2 2.1 5 3 3-2 3.00011.57
Joaquin Benoit 3 3.0 1 0 4-1 0.6670.00
Hector Neris 3 3.1 1 0 4-1 0.6000.00
Adam Morgan 1 2.1 4 3 3-0 1.71411.57
Pat Neshek 3 2.2 3 0 2-1 1.5000.00


After getting crushed by Bryce Harper in the series opener – that's been his M.O. at Citizens Bank Park since he was drafted – the Phillies did a great job keeping him in check the rest of the way. And, believe it or not, that had a direct correlation to the game's outcome.

1. FRI2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI
WSN 7 - PHI 6
2. SAT1-4, R, K
PHI 17 - WSN 3
3. SUN0-4, 2 K
PHI 4 - WSN 3

So, as you can see, the Phillies did it in a myriad of different ways this weekend, but in the end, they were able to take two out of three from the Nationals, a team projected to win quite a few more games than the Phils this season.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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