A home run in the top of the ninth inning kept the Washington Nationals’ (34-35) hopes of staying above .500 alive, but a walk-off single by the Philadelphia Phillies (34-37) in the bottom half thwarted Washington’s plans for victory in their 5-4 loss.
The Nationals were down, 3-4, going into the ninth inning, and their chances of winning looked slim against Philadelphia’s closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had a 1.46 ERA and had secured 13 saves in 13 opportunities going into Monday night. However, Chad Tracy silenced a howling crowd at Citizens Bank Park when he hit a two-out, two-strike home run to tie the game for Papelbon’s first blown save since July 18, 2012.
Roger Bernadina struck out to end the top of the inning, so the Nationals turned to Fernando Abad to keep the game tied and carry them to extras. But, in only the second of 12 outings in which he allowed a run to score, Abad gave up three singles in the bottom half, including an equally dramatic two-out, walk-off single to Domonic Brown.
Brown, who went 2-for-4, and Ryan Howard, who went 3-for-3, were the players of the game for Philadelphia. Howard hit a leadoff home run off Dan Haren in the second inning, and batted in two of the Phillies’ five runs.
Haren had a decent outing in comparison to his recent performances, but he still left the game in line for the loss for the Nationals. Monday’s contest became the seventh straight game he has started that the Nationals have lost, though Abad was officially charged with the loss.
Haren threw six innings on 115 pitches, and gave up four earned runs, seven hits, three walks and one home run. This start marked the first time he had pitched into the sixth inning since May 30.
John Lannan did a fine job countering for the Phillies in his return from the DL, but he has yet to earn his first win for his new team. He threw 92 pitches in five innings, and allowed two earned runs on six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Lannan was limited to a predetermined number of pitches in his first outing back since he was injured two months ago.
Jayson Werth, who is now hitting .333 off Lannan in 27 at-bats, got to him early by singling in the Nationals’ first run in the top of the first inning. Steve Lombardozzi and Kurt Suzuki, the seventh and eighth hitters in the lineup who combined to go 4-for-8, hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning to bring home the Nationals’ next run.
Lombardozzi was stranded at third base in the fourth, and the Nationals again left runners on base in the eighth inning, in what was probably their best chance to win the game outright. Ryan Zimmerman, who went 2-for-3, doubled, then scored on a two-out Ian Desmond single, but Adam LaRoche grounded out to end the eighth inning. LaRoche has gone 0-for-16 with six strikeouts in his last five games.
The fourth and eighth innings again highlighted the Nationals’ biggest struggle of late, which is not bringing home the runners who reach base. In total, they left six men on base, and went 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Until the Nationals can figure out a way to keep offensive momentum rolling through the lineup, they will likely continue to deal with frustrating losses such as Monday night’s anti-climatic defeat.