Juan Soto

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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Juan Soto becoming a real pain for Phillies to deal with

Juan Soto becoming a real pain for Phillies to deal with

Nick Pivetta makes his third start of the season Wednesday night as the Phillies wrap things up with the Nationals.

The Phils face each division opponent 19 times this season, and 12 of their head-to-head matchups with the Nats come in their first 75 games.

When: 7:05 p.m. ET — Pregame Live starts at 6:30
Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and streaming live on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

Big start for Pivetta

There was plenty of hype surrounding Pivetta heading into the season. He had strong peripheral numbers last season and an even stronger showing in spring training. There were a couple starts in Clearwater when Pivetta's fastball touched 98 and 99 mph. 

Well, the spring radar guns may have been juiced. Pivetta's fastball averaged 95.4 mph in his first start but was down to 93.8 in his last start Friday against the Twins.

Pivetta has allowed 17 hits in 9⅔ innings. The Phillies scored 18 runs to win both games but they won't be able to do that consistently. There will be more than a few starts from Pivetta this season when the Phillies need him to deliver a quality start to have a good chance to win. Tonight, they could really use at least six innings from him.

Pivetta has just been missing spots. He's thrown 20 pitches middle-middle, middle-high or middle-low compared to just 10 from Zach Eflin. Few pitchers in the era of velocity can get away with a poorly located heater, especially when the pitcher's fastball speed is in the 93 mph range.

This Nationals team has hit Pivetta around in the past. Anthony Rendon is 6 for 12 with three homers and a double. Ryan Zimmerman is 5 for 9 with a homer and a double. Juan Soto is 3 for 7 with a homer and a walk.

Soto ... such a pain

Rendon and Soto are a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Rendon covers so much of the plate, possessing the ability to hit for a high average, hit 30 homers and uses both gaps. Soto is an incredibly disciplined hitter, not just for a 20-year-old but for a major-leaguer, period.

Aaron Nola has had problems getting through the 3-4 spots in the Nats' order. He won't be the only pitcher to experience those pains this season. 

Then there's Victor Robles, who is certainly too talented to stay in the nine-hole for much longer. With his hot bat there, it gives a team one more thing to worry about at the bottom of the order.

Realmuto heating up

J.T. Realmuto singled three times on Tuesday night to raise his batting line to .257/.357/.371. The power hasn't yet surfaced but the Phillies are confident it will. The hope is that Realmuto heats up while Rhys Hoskins is still seeing the ball as well as he is right now, giving the Phillies an even more potent 1 through 5.

In his customary eight-spot, Maikel Franco had another strong night at the plate Tuesday, going 2 for 5 with a 426-foot home run and a laced single up the middle off Stephen Strasburg, then a 395-foot flyout to the center field wall a few innings later. Good to see him have a quality night at the plate after going 0 for 4 with a few weak at-bats the previous night.

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.

More on the Phillies

Nationals 5, Phillies 1: First impressions after another grim performance

Nationals 5, Phillies 1: First impressions after another grim performance

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola’s Cy Young chances took a hit in the Phillies’ latest loss Wednesday night. Nola lasted just five innings and gave up four runs, three on a pair of homers, in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, who swept the three-game series.

Nola’s ability to keep the ball in the yard had been impressive for most of the season. But after allowing just eight homers in his first 27 starts, he has surrendered seven in his last three. Nola is 16-5 with a 2.42 ERA in 30 starts.

Where they stand

Since they topped out at 63-48 and led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5, the Phillies are 11-23. Their record is now 74-71. Incredible as it may seem given where they once were, the Phils might not even finish with a .500 record.

They are still in second place, trailing Atlanta by 7½ games with 17 to play. But they are only a half-game better than third-place Washington.

Hmm

The Phils’ deficit of 7½ games with 17 to play sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, that’s how far they were behind the Mets when they came back to win the NL East in the Jimmy Rollins, “We’re the team to beat,” year of 2007. This team doesn’t look capable of a similar comeback. This team is going in the wrong direction and appears out of gas.

Phillies have a new owner

Actually they don’t, but Stephen Strasburg does own them in the figurative sense. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, walked none and struck out nine, to improve his lifetime mark against the Phils to 12-2 in 24 starts.

Not much offense

Manager Gabe Kapler praised his hitting coaches before the game (see story). Then the Phils went out and had just five hits. J.P. Crawford had three of them with an infield single, a bloop single and a homer.

Time to see some kids

Kapler said he would continue to play lineups that give the Phillies the best chance to win, but with their playoff hopes all but faded he is likely to get a look at some of the team’s younger players. The exercise started Wednesday night when Crawford started his first game at shortstop since June 18. Crawford got the Phillies on the scoreboard with a solo homer against Strasburg in the fifth inning.

Another young player, Roman Quinn, could be ready to return to the starting lineup as soon as Friday. He has been out since suffering a broken toe last week.

Kapler is consistent in strategy

The Phils trailed, 4-1, after Crawford’s homer in the fifth. Jorge Alfaro was then hit by a pitch. Nola was on his way out of the game, but it was possible he could have stayed around to try to move Alfaro to second with a bunt. Kapler instead sent Justin Bour to the plate to pinch-hit. That was no surprise because all season Kapler has made it clear that he will play for big innings and you do that by swinging the bat. Bour struck out. Cesar Hernandez struck out. Rhys Hoskins popped out to the catcher. Alfaro never advanced past first base and the Nats added a run on a solo homer by Juan Soto in the top of the sixth.

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