Phillies

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Juan Soto homers off Hector Neris with two outs in ninth to win it for Nats

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Juan Soto homers off Hector Neris with two outs in ninth to win it for Nats

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies have done a lot of losing lately.

This was some of the worst.

One out from a one-run victory, Hector Neris served up a single and a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals rallied to beat the Phillies, 4-3, in front of a sellout crowd on fireworks night at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

The Phillies led 3-0 early in the game and wasted a strong start from Aaron Nola.

The Phils have lost 23 of their last 37 games, including two in a row to Washington. The Phils are now 47-45. They are in third place in the NL East, 2½ games behind second-place Washington. They entered the night 7½ games behind first-place Atlanta.

Nola’s night

He ran a high pitch count so he was out of the game after six innings. But in those six innings, he was very good. He scattered six hits and a run, walked four and struck out nine. He left with a 3-1 lead.

Since June 16, Nola has made five starts. He has an ERA of 0.76 in those games. He has allowed just 19 hits and three earned runs in 35 2/3 innings over that span. He has walked 12 and struck out 43.

The rest of the Phillies’ starting pitchers have a 6.91 ERA since June 16.

Inspiring defense

Maybe it was because of the big crowd on fireworks night, maybe it was because Nola was on the mound, maybe it was because they scored a couple of early runs. Whatever the reason, the Phillies played with a lot of energy early in the game. It particularly showed on defense, where Bryce Harper, Roman Quinn and Maikel Franco all made legitimate highlight-reel plays.

Harper made a rather incredible 310-foot throw from the warning track in right field to cut down Victor Robles trying to stretch a double into a triple in the second inning.

Quinn made a long run and a diving catch at the track to take away extra bases from Adam Eaton in the fifth.

Franco made a lunging snare of Juan Soto’s hot smash to third in the sixth and another excellent play on Trea Turner in the seventh.

Franco’s night turns

Franco’s defense went bad in the eighth as he made a costly error that led to a run as the Nats cut the Phils’ lead to 3-2.

Franco at the bat

He drove in two of the Phillies’ three runs with a solo homer and a sacrifice fly against Patrick Corbin, who struck out 10 in six innings.

Cesar Hernandez was caught trying to steal third immediately before Franco’s homer. That hurt more and more as the night went on.

The Phillies did not score after the fourth inning and that hurt, too.

The game ended with Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle retiring pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp with the tying run on second.

Neris struggles

Neris retired dangerous Kurt Suzuki (five homers against the Phils this season) with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth and preserve a one-run lead.

He allowed a two-out single to Anthony Rendon and a two-run homer to Soto to blow the lead in the ninth.

Soto hit a first-pitch splitter (see story).

Neris was booed loudly as he walked off the mound.

Transactions

J.T. Realmuto was reinstated from paternity leave. Reserve catcher Rob Brantly was designated for assignment.

Sean Rodriguez was placed on the 10-day injured list with an abdominal strain and Adam Haseley was called up from Triple A.

Haseley will not be sitting around.

“We’ll find ways to get him in the lineup,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Up next

Jake Arrieta, bone spur and all, gets the start in Sunday afternoon’s finale. He will be looking to stop a Washington sweep.

Arrieta will face Anibal Sanchez. Max Scherzer was the scheduled starter for Washington, but he was scratched with a sore back.

Former NL MVP Ryan Howard will be honored with a special retirement ceremony before the game. Tune into NBC Sports Philadelphia at noon for a special edition of Phillies Focus, featuring an exclusive interview with Howard.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Phillies get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

Phillies get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

ATLANTA — The Phillies survived a ninth-inning high-wire act from Hector Nervous, er, Neris and held on for a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

With 13 games to go, the Phillies are barely alive in the National League wild-card race.

But they are alive.

“We still have odds and we know that,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Sure we know they may be long and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re still in it and I think getting this win tonight is huge.”

It was a good way to open an 11-game road trip that will take the Phillies to Cleveland and Washington after this three-game stop in Atlanta, where the Braves will wrap up a second straight NL East title any day now.

The Phils would rather the Braves not do that while they are here. That happened last year and it was painful.

The entire ending to last season was painful. The Phils went into the final 14 games of last season with a 76-72 record — the same slate they had going into Tuesday night’s game — and went 4-10 down the stretch to finish under .500 at 80-82.

“Everyone that was part of that last year carries that with them,” Hoskins said. “Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year at the end of the year, nobody likes watching people clinch. I think everybody in the whole league is in the same boat there. But we still have a chance and we know it. It started tonight and we just have to continue it tomorrow.”

At 77-72, the Phillies need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

They just need wins to stay in the postseason hunt.

They are four games back in a crowded wild-card race.

Picking up wins against the Braves, Indians and Nationals on this trip will require a lot of clutch work and the Phillies got some of that Tuesday. To wit:

• Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez limited damage and stayed in the game after throwing 30 pitches and allowing two runs in the first inning. He delivered five innings of two-run ball.

• Hoskins and Jose Pirela both clubbed two-run homers against Keuchel to help the Phils build a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. Keuchel came into the game on a big roll. He’d won his previous five starts and had given up just four runs in those games. Beating him would not be easy, but the Phils did it. They had to.

• Overall, the bullpen did some clutch work — four innings, two runs — despite allowing a pair of late homers to make it a one-run game. 

Neris gave up a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves made it a one-run game. He then issued a walk to Ronald Acuna Jr., who stole second and moved to third on a ground out. Neris then walked dangerous Freddie Freeman to put runners on the corners for cleanup man Josh Donaldson, who has 88 RBIs. As the ballpark rocked and the tomahawk chop chopped, Neris remained cool and struck out Donaldson before getting Nick Markakis on a pop up to end the game.

“To be able to collect himself after walking Freddie and to get a huge second out against Donaldson was, I think, what kind of tipped it back in our favor,” Hoskins said. “Huge props to Hector. We’ve seen him do that a lot. It was cool to see him come out on top.”

Manager Gabe Kapler praised the composure that Velasquez and Neris showed in the first and ninth innings, respectively.

“I think today, the reason we won the game, in addition to Hector’s composure and Vinnie’s composure, is that we were able to put a big inning on the board highlighted by a really good swing by Rhys Hoskins,” Kapler said.

The manager knows making the playoffs is a long shot. He’s not giving in.

“We spent a lot of time today talking about the importance of these last 14 games,” Kapler said. “We know where we are in the standings, we know what the numbers say, but that’s not what we’re paying attention to right now. We’re paying attention to fighting for each other all the way through the finish line.”

The fight continues Wednesday night with Zach Eflin on the mound. Thirteen games to go and the Phils have no margin for error.

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Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — The Phillies kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

The Phils got two-run homers from Rhys Hoskins and Jose Pirela — both against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel — and Vince Velasquez and the bullpen held the Braves to two runs over the final eight innings. All in all, it was a good way to open an 11-game road trip.

The Phillies’ bullpen survived two late homers as the Braves made it a one-run game.

Hector Neris allowed a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth and got the final two outs of the game with runners on the corners.

The standings

The Phillies entered the night five games out in the NL wild-card race. The victory left them with a chance to pull to within four games of the second wild-card playoff spot depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game.

The Phils have 13 games left. They are 77-72 overall. They need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

Velasquez’ night

Though he lasted only five innings, Velasquez did a pretty good job for the Phillies. He had a tough first inning in which he threw 30 pitches and that prompted early action in the Phillies’ bullpen. But the right-hander maintained his composure and held the Braves to just two runs in the inning. It could have been worse, but Velasquez’ ability to limit damage was huge.

After the first inning, Velasquez racked up four scoreless innings and held the Braves to two hits.

Keuchel’s night

The left-hander who had been passed over by the Phillies earlier in the season came into the game on a big roll — five straight wins in which he’d allowed a total of just four runs.

Keuchel sailed through the first three innings then allowed a pair of infield hits and a pair of two-run homers as the Phillies rallied for five in the fourth inning to take the lead.

Hoskins hits one

There have been times this season when Hoskins has looked pull-happy at the plate. He’s a better hitter when he uses the whole field like he did in the fourth inning when he clubbed a two-run homer to right-center to tie the game at 2-2. It was his 29th homer of the season and first solidly to the opposite field. He had four opposite-field homers last season.

Hoskins did a good job staying back on a high changeup to the outside part of the plate from Keuchel. He hit the ball right where it was pitched. He has homered in back-to-back games and has nine since the All-Star break.

Pirela rewards Kapler

Looking to get right-handed bats in the game against Keuchel, manager Gabe Kapler started Sean Rodriguez at third base and Pirela in left field. (Kapler did not start Maikel Franco at third because he did not believe Franco would fare well against Keuchel’s sinker.) Pirela rewarded his manager’s faith with a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. He had previously been 0 for 5 with two strikeouts against Keuchel.

Braves set team mark

Adeiny Hechavarria’s home run in the eighth was the Braves’ 236th of the season, a team record.

Phillies pitchers have allowed 238 homers this season. That is a team record. The old one was 221.

Up next

Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20) opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50) on Wednesday night.

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