Phillies take advantage of Nats for series sweep
It was an unsightly series that could end no other way. The final decisive runs in the Philadelphia Phillies' four-game sweep of the pitching-poor, error-prone Washington Nationals scored on a bunt play that went mysteriously awry.
With the Phillies trailing by one in the eighth inning and nobody out, Pedro Feliz attempted a routine sacrifice. Pitcher Jesus Colome fielded the ball and threw accurately to first, but second baseman Anderson Hernandez - who was covering the bag - inexplicably moved out of the way at the last second and let the ball go into right field.
"I didn't see the ball. What I can do? I don't see it," said Hernandez, who clearly did not want to discuss the matter afterward. "I cannot even catch it if I can't see it."
Two runs scored, and Colome was given a hard-luck, two-base error. The Phillies added another run in the inning and won 8-6, capping a series that included 55 runs, 42 walks and enough long innings to make any fan restless.
"We played a lot of baseball and we come out 4-0," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, whose team had lost three straight series coming into Washington, said with his typical shrug. "That's pretty good."
Sergio Escalona (1-0), called up overnight from Double-A Reading, got the win in his major league debut by throwing one scoreless inning of relief, practically a standout performance among the only two National League clubs with team ERAs over 5.00.
The 24-year-old left-hander from Venezuela therefore had a right to be jubilant, and he most certainly was - pumping his fists repeatedly as he recalled his feelings when he saw the Nationals mess up the bunt and make him the pitcher of record.
"Yes! Yes! And thank God! I was just waiting for the score to hold, and I got the ball right there," said Escalona, pointing to the souvenir in his locker. "I never forget this day!"
Neither will the Nationals. The bunt play is just the sort of thing that happens to the worst team in baseball.
"It seems like we can do some stuff right now that other people can't," said Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Both teams tallied at least five runs in every game of the series, which included the rain-shortened nightcap of Saturday's day-night doubleheader. The Phillies, already the NL's top scoring road team, finished with 33 runs in 35 innings.
The pitchers - and there were a combined 11 of them Sunday - became so unpredictable that the plate umpire warned both dugouts in the fifth inning after Josh Willingham became the third hit batter of the game.
The first inning lasted 37 minutes and ended in a 3-3 draw. Phillies starter Chan Ho Park was done after 1 1-3 innings, having walked four and thrown two wild pitches to go with his five runs allowed. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann settled down after the first and made it through five innings, allowing five runs before turning the game over to his dicey bullpen.
Julian Tavarez (0-3) took the loss without retiring a batter. Brad Lidge got the final two outs in the ninth for his seventh save, his second consecutive scoreless outing after six straight in which he had allowed at least one run.
The Nationals actually misplayed two bunts. Zimmermann said he should have turned a hard bunt by Park into a double play in the third, even though catcher Wil Nieves was calling for the ball to go to first.
The Phillies went on to score two runs in the inning.
"We turned two bunts," Washington manager Manny Acta said, "into four runs."
Nationals SS Cristian Guzman had three hits to raise his average to .381. ... Zimmerman reached base safely in his 35th consecutive game. ... Philadelphia LHP J.C. Romero, serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, begins a rehab assignment Monday at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. ... Washington OF Austin Kearns missed his third straight game after getting hit by a pitch Friday night. ... Nationals CF Elijah Dukes aggravated his tight left hamstring while running out a double in the first. He was replaced in the top of the second and is day-to-day. ... Acta said Joel Hanrahan has regained the job as the Nationals' closer.