After six more innings of offensive futility, the Nationals have broken open this ballgame with a monster five-run seventh inning that has given them a 5-0 lead and will allow Stephen Strasburg quite a cushion to work with as he takes the mound for the eighth.
The Nats had managed just three hits off Cole Hamels entering the seventh inning, but a few well-placed hits and a couple of sub-par defensive plays from the Phillies allowed them to pile it on.
Ryan Zimmerman led off the inning with an infield single, and Adam LaRoche followed with a single through the hole on the right side.
Ian Desmond - the Nats' No. 5 hitter, mind you - interestingly then decided to lay down a sac bunt, moving both runners into scoring position. After the Phillies intentionally walked Tyler Moore to load the bases, Jhonatan Solano had a swinging bunt roll up the third base line.
Phillies third baseman Michael Young gloved the ball and tried to throw home, but the throw was low and got away, allowing both Zimmerman and LaRoche to score.
Steve Lombardozzi then followed with a line drive down the right field line that right fielder Delmon Young butchered. The ball hit off the wall that juts out down the line, and the cement-footed Young was unable to get to it until Solano was already rounding third. Two runs scored on Lombardozzi's triple.
Two batters later, Denard Span ripped a double that brought in Lombardozzi to make it a 5-0 Nats lead.
All told, the Nats scored five runs on four hits with two walks in that inning. It wasn't pretty. But they will gladly take it.
Bryce Harper is now out of the game, replaced by Roger Bernadina, who pinch-ran for Harper in the seventh.
Harper has been limping around nearly the entire afternoon, and it appears his sore left knee is really bugging him. We'll check on him after the game, but for now, the Nats will enjoy a comfortable lead over their division rivals in the series finale.
Update: Strasburg had failed to work into the eighth inning in his first 53 starts as a major leaguer.
He's now gone a full eight innings twice over his last three outings.
Strasburg went eight innings today, allowing one run on five hits, striking out nine and walking none. He threw 112 pitches, sees his ERA drop to 2.49 and is in line for his third win. The only run Strasburg allowed today came when he balked in Ben Revere with two outs in the eighth.
Since that fifth-inning implosion against the Cubs four starts ago, Strasburg has allowed just three earned runs over his last 23 innings. That disaster of a game against Chicago might've been a turning point, of sorts, for the Nats' ace, who has looked really good lately.
Update II: That'll do it. Tyler Clippard worked a scoreless ninth to put a wrap on this one, as the Nats beat the Phillies 6-1.
The Nats get the series victory, get Strasburg his third win of the season and get some smiles on their faces on a day when their offense was able to do some damage late in the ballgame.
More to come.