PHILADELPHIA - The second matchup between Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola went down much like the first.
Until Anthony Rendon saved the day in the ninth inning. And even had a hand in the final out.
Rendon’s dramatic two-run homer in the top of the ninth, his 17th belt on the season, after he started the at-bat 0-2 against the Phillies’ nasty reliever Pat Neshek, helped the Nats to complete a stunning comeback and win 5-4.
“Oh man, just trying to get down early and see a pitch,” Rendon said of his battle against Neshek. “I’ve had some tough at-bats off him before, and so I just wanted to make sure I was ready to hit and try to pick up spin the best I could, and just happened to win that one.”
The Nats improved to 67-66 with their second series victory over the Phillies in a week.
The game was sealed after Phillies pinch-runner Vince Velasquez left early tagging up from second base after Jorge Alfaro flied out to center field in the bottom of the ninth. Velasquez intially appeared make it to third base safely.
But the Nats then threw the ball back to second base to appeal the play, asserting that the runner left early. After video review, Velasquez was called out at second base, giving the Nats the win.
“Yeah, (Matt) Wieters and I both kind of saw, looked like he left pretty early,” said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “For the umpire to make that call right there, it had to be pretty sure. You don’t want the game to end like that. but we’ll take it.”
The comeback was only the third time in 60 games the Nats had rallied to win when trailing after eight innings. For the Phillies, it was only the fifth time in 68 games they had lost when leading after eight frames.
“Yeah, it was weird,” manager Davey Martinez said of the crazy ninth inning. “You know, I kept telling the boys, ‘We got to keep it right here, keep it right here. We’ll see what happens. Just keep battling, keep grinding,’ and they did.”
Zimmerman and Rendon had the only hits in the game for the Nats, each finishing with three: Zimmerman with a career-high three doubles and his first stolen base of the season, Rendon with the homer and two singles.
The Phillies belted a pair of homers to lead 3-2 in the ninth. Bryce Harper walked against Tommy Hunter. Neshek then served up a two-run shot to Rendon over the left field wall. The Nats added another run, thanks to Zimmerman’s third double in the game.
“Yeah, I mean, great at-bat,” Martinez said of the Rendon homer. “Really, I mean, it’s a testament to these guys that they stay in the at-bats, they really do. If we can do that for the next five weeks we’ll be in good shape. Because we’ve got an explosive lineup, we really do.”
Zimmerman stole third base and came home when catcher Jorge Alfaro fired the ball over third base and into left field for a throwing error.
“Well, getting to third base right there with less than two outs is huge because, obviously, they have to bring the infield in,” Zimmerman said. “A fly ball scores you that extra run, and it’s a big deal.
“Once (Wieters) got two strikes, Asdrúbal (Cabrera) started scooting over a little bit more. Kind of just took a chance that I could beat him there. With Alfaro’s arm, he’s going to throw it pretty hard over there. It’s hard to hit a moving target and make a play and tag someone. So, figure it was worth the risk.”
Odúbel Herrera and Alfaro slammed round-trippers in the fourth and fifth frames, respectively, and Nola baffled the Nats’ hitters for seven innings.
Scherzer had to leave after five innings, matching his shortest outing of the season. Scherzer lasted five innings back on April 4 at Atlanta. He has gone six or more innings in 26 other starts this season. He had to throw 99 pitches in those five innings, firing 68 for strikes.
Herrera, who hit a two-run shot for the only runs in last week’s 2-0 Phillies win over the Nats, connected on a Scherzer pitch for a solo homer over the right-center field wall to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, Scott Kingery reached on an infield single. Alfaro followed with a first-pitch no-doubter over the center field wall. The two-run shot lifted the Phillies to a 3-0 advantage.
“I felt good,” Scherzer said. “I threw a lot of good pitches today. They did a heck of a job of fouling a lot of pitches off and grinding AB’s. When you think about throwing five innings and 100 pitches, you think about spraying it and walking guys, everything. But I didn’t walk anybody, they just kept battling me and kept battling me and kept fouling pitches off and grinding ABs out. Sometimes you just got to tip your hat.”
The Nats rallied, thanks to a wild play in the seventh. Rendon singled and one batter later Zimmerman doubled. A Wieters grounder to first base was the second out.
Rendon came home and was safe after Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana’s throw home sailed high over the head of the catcher Alfaro. Zimmerman came around to score as well. Santana was charged with a throwing error.
Nats pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds was caught looking at a third strike in the eighth against Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter. Reynolds tossed his bat aside, argued a bit as he walked away. Home plate umpire Sam Holbrook ejected Reynolds.
Reynolds charged out of the dugout and argued closer to Holbrook. Martinez and third-base coach Bobby Henley came over to protect Reynolds. Reynolds finally walked away and tossed his batting gloves in the general direction of home plate. Holbrook threw Reynolds out of the game, again.
“He got thrown out twice,” Martinez said. “That’s what the umpire did. Arguing balls and strikes, he thought they were balls and he got thrown out. I’ve never seen anybody get thrown out twice, but he did.”
Rendon and Zimmerman were asked if they had ever seen a player thrown out twice in one game?
“I have not, but if anyone can I know the man that could,” Rendon smiled as he looked in the direction of Reynolds’ locker.
“I’ve never seen that happen before. I hope he gets fined twice,” Zimmerman teased.