Even with the tough loss Sunday afternoon, the Nationals won the series in Philadelphia. And it took a walk-off homer and six consecutive strikeouts to keep them from their 50th win of the season.
Shortstop Trea Turner, who netted the game-tying RBI single in the seventh, said the club is still playing great baseball in the midst of a 30-12 run.
“Our pitching has been unbelievable lately, especially starting pitching,” Turner said. “The bullpen stepped up big time, kept us in those games and give us a chance to win. Our lineup is competitive and can hurt you in a lot of different ways. So when you have a combination of good pitching and a lineup that doesn’t give up, you get results like that.”
Turner only had two hits in the series. But he still feels like he made some progress with the bat each game.
“Just missed some pitches,” Turner said. “Fouled some pitches off in the last few days that I should’ve hit. The two balls that I hit the hardest in the series, I was out on. In a short series, if two hits fall, then probably would’ve hit .400 or .500 this series as opposed to .100.”
* Analyzing the decision to keep Matt Grace in to face Maikel Franco in the bottom of the ninth, manager Davey Martinez said he still liked the matchup.
“Matt, he’s had some success down there, and (Jay) Bruce ... he got out,” Martinez said. “And then he had (Adam) Haseley behind him after Franco, so I like Matt in that spot right there.”
The Nats tied the game with a ferocious comeback in the seventh. But then Adam Morgan and Héctor Neris struck out six straight Nats to finish the eighth and ninth frames.
“They did well. I mean, Morgan came in and did well, the kid got out of a jam,” Martinez said. “So, hey, we battled back. We were down, battled back. (Aníbal) Sánchez kept us in the game. Come here, win two out of three, day off, go back and go to Baltimore and try to win that first game.”
* There is still was a lot of good from Sánchez in Sunday’s loss. Especially in the fifth, when he induced a fly ball from Rhys Hoskins with two outs, the bases loaded and the game on the line.
“Yeah, that was huge,” Martinez said. “When Sanchie goes out there and pitches, he’s going to compete. I thought the matchup right there with Hoskins, he got him to hit a fly ball and got out of the inning.”
J.T. Realmuto had a good look at Sánchez, however, with an RBI single and a solo homer. The right-hander broke down his strategy against the veteran catcher:
“I just tried to be ahead,” Sánchez said. “Especially using the changeup on the first pitch, and I tried to put my cutter down and away. I just missed a little bit up, and with how good those guys are, there’s nothing you can miss with against that lineup.”
With the Nats trailing late, Martinez elected to go to the bullpen and get a pinch-hitter in for Sánchez. Down 3-1 in the seventh, the Nats turned to Howie Kendrick. It worked. Kendrick’s single cut the Phillies lead to 3-2.
“I feel good, I feel strong, that’s something that the situation that I have to hit and all that stuff, it’s the National League at the end,” Sanchez said of leaving after six innings.
Sánchez allowed only three runs. The story early in the game was the Nats’ inability to solve Jake Arrieta, combining for just one run on four hits and two walks in his five innings pitched.