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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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