A rough ninth inning from (likely soon not to be) closer Jeanmar Gomez spoiled eight terrific, shutout innings from four Phillies' pitchers but also set up Cesar Hernandez's walk-off single Sunday afternoon.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Hernandez blooped a ball to shallow left field just out of Jayson Werth's reach to give the Phillies a 4-3 victory and their first series win of the season.
The game came to that only because Gomez failed in the top of the ninth, putting two men on before Ryan Zimmerman destroyed a cookie from him for a three-run homer.
The Nationals had done nothing at the plate the previous eight innings, getting only two legitimate scoring chances against Jeremy Hellickson, Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris.
Hellickson lasted just five innings and was forced to exit before the sixth with a right forearm cramp (see story).
Hellickson had been cruising, allowing just one hit over five shutout innings on 70 pitches. He batted in the previous half-inning and grounded out, then exited after a few warmup pitches in the top of the sixth.
Starting pitching report
Maybe it's just noise, but Hellickson has been a completely different pitcher during day games dating back to 2014.
Over that time he has a 3.08 ERA and .210 opponents' batting average in day games compared to a 4.58 ERA and .275 opponents' batting average at night.
Through two starts this season, Hellickson is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA but has lasted just five innings in both games.
Still, he set the Phillies up for a win Sunday, even if it was the slowest-paced five shutout innings you'll see.
Strasburg had a rare misstep at Citizens Bank Park. Entering Sunday, he had a 1.12 ERA in seven career starts here. His three earned runs were the most he's allowed in Philly. He struck out eight, including Odubel Herrera and Howie Kendrick twice apiece.
How much longer will Gomez stay in the closer's role? He gave up a two-run, opposite-field homer to Scooter Gennett in the season opener and couldn't protect a three-run lead Sunday. There was no doubt about Zimmerman's homer, which continued the theme dating back to last September of Gomez too often finding the barrel of his opponent's bat.
Benoit, Neshek and Neris had combined to pitch three scoreless innings before Gomez entered.
Neris had a little blip in the eighth, walking pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo and going 3-0 to Adam Eaton with the heart of the Nationals' order due up next. But he came all the way back to strike out Eaton and ended the inning with a strikeout of Bryce Harper.
Neris, Benoit and Neshek so far this season: 9 innings, 0 runs, 8 baserunners, 10 strikeouts.
Hernandez's game-winning single came off Nats reliever Koda Glover.
At the plate
Hernandez drove in two of the Phillies' four runs with the game-winning hit and a fourth-inning infield single.
All of the Phillies' runs came with two outs.
Freddy Galvis knocked in the first run with a two-out single in the second. Howie Kendrick's double scored Hernandez two innings later.
Galvis' single would have been a routine groundout if not for the Nationals' over-shifting him to pull. It was a pretty confusing decision -- was Galvis really a threat to sharply pull a 97 mph fastball from Strasburg?
The Phillies had a pretty good approach against Strasburg. Maikel Franco walked twice against him and lined out sharply to center.
Herrera had a hard-hit single to center in the first inning, his National League-leading 13th time on base already this season.
Before the ninth inning, the Nationals put men in scoring position only twice.
Save that ball
Catcher Andrew Knapp picked up his first big-league hit in his second career start. It was a double down the third-base line. Two innings earlier, Knapp worked a key walk that extended the inning for Galvis' run-scoring single.
The Phillies begin a three-game home series with the Mets on Monday. The pitching matchups:
Monday: Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.70) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.00)
Tuesday: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 7.20) vs. Matt Harvey (1-0, 2.70)
Wednesday: Vince Velasquez (0-1, 9.00) vs. Zach Wheeler (0-1, 11.25)