They're heavily scrutinized whenever an inning goes wrong, so the Phillies' relievers also deserve a ton of credit for Saturday and Sunday.
The Phils don't win this series without nearly lights-out work from the bullpen.
On Saturday, the 'pen pitched seven innings after an injury ended Vince Velasquez's night.
On Sunday, the 'pen pitched eight more scoreless innings to put the Phillies in position for Andrew Knapp's pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the 13th inning of a 4-3 win over the Nationals.
All told, the Phils' bullpen allowed one run in 15 innings Saturday and Sunday, an Anthony Rendon homer off Tommy Hunter early Saturday.
This was the first game in Phillies history in which they had eight relievers make a scoreless appearance.
And it's their first walk-off home run since Ryan Howard's on April 29, 2016.
Nick Pivetta earned the win in relief two days after getting rocked by the Nationals in a start.
Sunday's win means the Phillies are 6-4 this season vs. the Nats and 5-2 against them over the last nine days.
At 45-37, the Phillies are three games behind the Braves and three ahead of the Nationals.
Gabe Kapler made a 50-50 decision in the bottom of the fifth inning and it paid off. Down 3-0, with two men on and nobody out, he pinch-hit for Arrieta with Carlos Santana.
Santana walked to load the bases. Cesar Hernandez walked to drive in a run. Rhys Hoskins hit a sac fly, and Odubel Herrera followed with an RBI single. Just like that, game tied, Arrieta off the hook.
Arrieta had thrown only 71 pitches, but it was the Phillies' first opportunity all game with multiple men on base or a runner in scoring position.
Most managers wouldn't take out their $25 million pitcher in the fifth inning after the bullpen was needed for 14⅓ innings the previous two nights. But it made complete sense. Santana gives you a much better chance at a crooked number that inning than batting Arrieta, and if the move doesn't pay off ... well, you're down 3-0 anyway. Getting an extra inning or two out of Arrieta in a game you trail by three runs isn't nearly as important as scoring in a rare opportunity.
It was clear, as well, that the Phils had Gio Gonzalez on the ropes. He completely lost his control in the fifth as a dominant outing turned into a mediocre one. If he's let off the hook there, you could be looking at a shutout.
Lefty reliever Austin Davis entered the following half-inning and struck out Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper in order in his most impressive big-league outing to date.
After posting a 6.66 ERA in five June starts, Arrieta allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings Sunday. His season ERA of 3.54 didn't budge.
The key blow came from Adam Eaton with runners on second and third after Arrieta had kept them there with a strikeout of Pedro Severino and a soft groundout from Gonzalez. Eaton laced a groundball between first and second base to plate two runs.
Arrieta's rate of 6.17 strikeouts per nine innings is dead-last among National League starting pitchers.
He's completed six innings just twice in his last six starts.
More defensive issues
In the fifth inning when Arrieta allowed two runs, Hernandez couldn't field a sharply hit ball right at him. It didn't go down as an error because of how well it was struck, but it's a play a second baseman has to make. Instead of getting in front of it, Hernandez attempted to field it to the side and it skipped off his glove into the outfield, placing runners on the corners. It should have been a 4-6-3 double play.
The inning before, Jorge Alfaro made an errant throw, which allowed Trea Turner to advance to second base after a bunt single. Turner came around to score, marking the 15th unearned run behind Arrieta. Arrieta's allowed more unearned runs this season than the Red Sox.
Pat Neshek made his season debut, allowing a single to Mark Reynolds and a groundout to Severino before being taken out for Tommy Hunter to face a couple lefties.
It's July 1 and Neshek has a 0.00 ERA — crazy, right?!
Struggling with southpaws
Aaron Altherr got a big hit Saturday, a pinch-hit RBI double that gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead.
It earned him a start Sunday against lefty Gonzalez but Altherr again couldn't deliver vs. a southpaw. He's 9 for 61 (.148) this season with 20 strikeouts against lefties.
The Phillies need more from him, there's no two ways about it. They certainly didn't expect him to be hitting .175 on July 1.
The Phillies are off Monday and again Thursday. In between, they host the lowly Orioles in a two-game series.
How bad have the O's been this season? At 23-59, they're 10 games worse than the team with the worst record in the NL, the Mets. Baltimore is on pace to finish 45-117 and it might actually turn out that bad given the widespread expectation that the club trades Manny Machado by the deadline.
Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. — Zach Eflin (6-2, 3.02) vs. Alex Cobb (2-9, 6.75)
Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (10-2, 2.48) vs. David Hess (2-5, 5.94).