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Nationals return to respectability, but lose final game of series against Phillies

Nationals return to respectability, but lose final game of series against Phillies

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Cesar Hernandez bailed out his buddy in a clutch spot. Hernandez hit a broken-bat RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

Pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman delivered a tying, three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth off closer Jeanmar Gomez, but the Phillies immediately answered to take two of three from the defending NL East champions.

Hernandez and Gomez are close friends, so it was fitting the second baseman turned the blown save into a win.

"Everybody is like a family," Hernandez said. "If not me, someone else would pick him up."

Pinch-hitter Daniel Nava walked to start the bottom of the ninth against Koda Glover (0-1). Nava advanced to third when Freddy Galvis singled to right with one out. After Brock Stassi popped out, Hernandez slashed an opposite-field single to left.

Gomez (1-0) had 37 saves in 43 chances last year, but struggled over the final six weeks. He allowed a two-run homer while getting a save in the season opener at Cincinnati.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he's considering making a change at closer, but wants to talk to Gomez on Monday.

"We're going to discuss it," Mackanin said. "We have to do what's best for the team."

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs and five hits, striking out eight in seven innings. He wasn't happy with the strike zone early in the game and neither were a couple of Philadelphia's relievers, including Gomez.

"I made some good pitches early, they just didn't call them," Strasburg said. "Just have to keep chipping away and that's all I can do."

Jeremy Hellickson pitched one-hit ball over five innings for Philadelphia before leaving the game because of a cramp in his right forearm. Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris combined for three scoreless innings before Gomez took over.

Adam Lind singled with one out and Jayson Werth walked. After Stephen Drew struck out, Zimmerman connected to make it 3-all.

Less than 24 hours after setting a team record with 12 runs in the first inning of a 17-3 victory, the Phillies were one out from beating Strasburg for the first time in their ballpark.

"After that drubbing that we got Saturday, Stras, this is why he's Stras, what he's getting paid for, to go deep in games," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

Galvis gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single .

The Phillies extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth. Hernandez beat out an infield single to second baseman Daniel Murphy, scoring Andrew Knapp after the rookie catcher led off the inning with a double for his first career hit. Howie Kendrick then ripped a double to left-center to score Hernandez.

QUOTABLE

"You can only control what you can control," Gomez said about possibly losing his closer's role.

ROSTER MOVE

The Nationals selected the contract of reliever Matt Albers from Triple-A Syracuse and designated RHP Jeremy Guthrie for assignment. Guthrie allowed 10 runs while getting only two outs in the first inning Saturday.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals SS Trea Turner wasn't in the lineup after injuring his hamstring Saturday night. He isn't expected to miss much time.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (1-0, 3.00 ERA) takes the mound in the series opener at home against the Cardinals on Monday. Adam Wainwright (0-1, 3.60) pitches for St. Louis.

Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.70) starts the series opener at home against the Mets on Monday. He is 1-4 with a 2.66 ERA in seven starts against New York. Jacob deGrom goes for the Mets. He tossed six shutout innings in his first outing.

MORE NATIONALS: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL SEE IN 2017

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Sean Doolittle reacts to Houston Astros’ sign stealing allegations

Sean Doolittle reacts to Houston Astros’ sign stealing allegations

All eyes in the baseball world are on the Houston Astros this week as they’re investigated for allegedly stealing signs using a high-powered camera in 2017 after The Athletic published a report Tuesday that included a former player of the team verifying the accusations.

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle weighed in on the scandal Thursday night on Twitter, posting a thread commemorating Mike Fiers and Carson Smith for speaking out before slamming teams who go around the accepted rules for stealing signs.

Doolittle and the Nationals faced Houston in the 2019 World Series; although there’s no evidence the Astros used these sign-stealing techniques against them, The Washington Post reported that pitching coach Paul Menhart ordered the pitching staff to use more complex signs in the World Series in order to combat any potential wrongdoing on Houston’s part.

The Boston Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in 2017 for using an Apple Watch to steal signs from the New York Yankees, after which commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement warning teams “that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.”

Major League Baseball is investigating the allegations, with no timetable given for a conclusion. For now, Doolittle has a suggestion for how to spend your time.

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Dodgers' Cody Bellinger wins NL MVP, Anthony Rendon finishes third

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger wins NL MVP, Anthony Rendon finishes third

Anthony Rendon’s night went as expected Thursday. He finished third in National League MVP voting. 

Los Angeles slugger Cody Bellinger won the award for the first time in his career. Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich was second.

1. Cody Bellinger: 19 first-place votes, 10 second-place votes, 1 fifth-place vote

2. Christian Yelich: 10 first-place votes, 18 second-place votes, 1 third-place vote, 1 fourth-place vote

3. Anthony Rendon: 1 first-place vote, 1 second-place vote, 24 third-place votes, 3 fourth-place votes, 1 fifth-place vote

Rendon finished his best season with a 1.010 OPS, good for third in the National League, and a league-leading 126 RBIs and 44 doubles. By any measure, Rendon’s performance in 2019 exceeded those of his past years. His OPS-plus, WAR, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and average were all career bests. However, those numbers were not enough to take the award from Yelich or Bellinger, both of whom dominated the league throughout the season.

Bellinger led the NL in bWAR and tied with Yelich in fWAR. Yelich led the league in slugging percentage and OPS. Despite his totals being truncated by a season-ending knee injury -- a foul ball cracked his kneecap Sept. 10 -- Yelich remained a premier choice for the award. 

His .671 slugging percentage was the highest in the National League since Albert Pujols delivered the same number in 2006. He also stole 30 bases. Yelich led Bellinger in multiple statistics: Adjusted OPS-plus, average, slugging percentage and OPS. The question for voters became whether Yelich missing most of September was enough to undermine his case for the award.

Bellinger significantly increased his plate discipline en route to his best season. Bellinger swung at strikes 70.4 percent of the time, boosting his overall contact rate by almost six percent. His contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone also went up since his attempts at such pitches declined.

Defining “value” is always part of the MVP discussion. Los Angeles was the league’s best team during the regular season. So, without Bellinger, where does it stand? It is in very good shape, but likely not a 106-win club. Milwaukee won 89 games. Thirteen of those wins came during a September surge without Yelich. Should he be penalized for the team, as a whole, playing well after his injury? Voters had to decide.

Both made the postseason, which is also sometimes used as a voting marker to determine value.

Three other Nationals also made their way onto ballots. Leftfielder Juan Soto placed ninth with 45 points while starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer finished 17th and 23rd, respectively. Strasburg and Scherzer also finished in the top five of NL Cy Young voting, which was announced Wednesday night.

The award, of late, has been passed around. Barry Bonds dominated it with four consecutive wins from 2001-2004. Albert Pujols commanded it next, winning three times between 2005-2009. There has not been a repeat winner since Pujols won his third in 2009. Joey Votto won in 2010; Ryan Braun in 2011; Buster Posey in 2012; Andrew McCutchen in 2013; Clayont Kershaw in 2014; Bryce Harper in 2015; Kris Bryant in 2016; Giancarlo Stanton in 2017 and Yelich last year. 

Bellinger, just 24 years old, will receive his chance in 2020.

Matt Weyrich contributed to this report.

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