Friday, April 17, 2015

Homers continue to haunt Hamels as Phils fall to Nats

 The Nationals continued to break out of their early-season offensive funk with a 5-2 victory over the Phillies on Thursday night at Nationals Park. Washington has scored 22 runs in its past three games and has won two straight for the first time this season.
Yunel Escobar homered on the game's first pitch from Phillies starter Cole HamelsMichael Taylor's fifth-inning solo home run gave Washington a 3-2 lead, and Ryan Zimmerman had a two-run double as the Nationals produced an efficient six hits.
"Things are starting to get rolling right now," Taylor said. "The pitching has been there the whole time, guys are starting to swing it, so it'll be fun to see what happens going forward."
Washington starter Doug Fister got the victory, going 6 2/3 innings while giving up two runs (one earned) and striking out four. Fister got some help from reliever Matt Thornton, who entered with bases loaded and two outs in the seventh and got Chase Utley to line out to Taylor in center field.
"We're a good team," Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth said. "We've got a good lineup. We're just grinding out games, grinding out at-bats. We'll be fine. We just have to keep going."
Diverted attention: Bryce Harper took such big leads after his one-out walk in the fourth inning that Hamels made three consecutive throws to first base to at least keep him close. But Hamels balked on his third try -- first-base umpire Ron Kulpa indicated the lefty did not sufficiently step toward first -- and Harper moved to second, and from there he scored on Wilson Ramos' two-out bloop single to left-center field to make it 2-2.
In the clutch: Thornton has a battle-tested plan when it comes to getting out of tight spots: concentrate on only the batter. That was just how the left-hander survived the seventh inning, when he came in with the bases loaded and two outs and Washington ahead, 5-2.
"I've had those situations a few times in my career," Thornton said. "It's never easy, but you find comfort in it. I don't focus on the baserunners out there. It's actually easier when the bases are loaded, because they can't run, so you're not worried about holding the runners and I can just focus on making pitches."
Thornton needed seven pitches to get Utley.
Different result: Hamels held the Nationals to one run on two hits over seven innings when they last met on April 11. The results weren't quite as good this time, beginning with Escobar's first-pitch homer, and the left-hander wound up allowing five runs on five hits in his six-inning stint. This ended a streak of 21 consecutive road starts in which Hamels allowed three earned runs or fewer -- the longest active streak in the Major Leagues. More >
"The position I'm in, I'm supposed to be that guy that stops the slide or stops the bleeding, however you want to call it," said Hamels, referring to the loss being the Phillies' fifth straight. "That's kind of my job. Not being able to do [that] today is definitely frustrating."
Missed chances: Not hitting at the right times has been a problem that's plagued the Phillies throughout the early season. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven in the loss. The Phillies now are batting just .149 (11-for-74) with RISP. More >
"It's a huge blow. Craig works his tail off. He does so much for us. It's just an opportunity for someone else to step up and do the job. But it's still disappointing having a friend who's going to have surgery and miss the rest of the year. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go next spring, for sure" -- Thornton on the news workhorse reliever Craig Stammen needs surgery to repair a flexor tear in his right arm. 
Phillies: Sean O'Sullivan will make his second start of the season Friday and is looking for his first Major League victory since 2011 (with the Royals). He gave up two runs on five hits in six innings in a loss to Friday's opponent, the Nationals, on April 12 but got a no-decision. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Nationals: Max Scherzer takes the mound Friday in a rematch of Washington's 4-3 victory over Philadelphia on April 12 in which the right-hander pitched six innings and allowed one run on six hits with eight strikeouts in a no-decision.

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