PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Hunter Pence #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run in the third inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
• Nats Park North: The Washington Nationals started tonight's series finale with the Phillies on a six-game win streak in Citizens Bank Park, having taken four-straight in the last series in Philadelphia in September of 2011 and the first two of three in CBP this year. The last time they faced Phillies' left-hander Cole Hamels, however, the seven-year veteran shut the Nats down through 8.0 innings and threw a purpose pitch into Bryce Harper's back in the Nats' 19-year-old's first career AB against the Nationals' NL East rivals. Hamels held Washington to one run, which scored when Harper stole home later in the same inning he was hit on one of the Philly pitcher's sloooow throws over to first, gaining a measure of revenge for the HBP, but other than that the 28-year-old Phillies' '02 1st Round pick held the Nationals off the board through 8.0 IP in which he gave up just five hits in a game Philadelphia would go on to win, 9-3.
• Trading Leadoff Walks: Danny Espinosa took a 94 mph full-count fastball inside for ball four and a leadoff walk from Cole Hamels in the first at bat of tonight's game. In the first AB of the much-hyped rematch with Bryce Harper, the Philly starter got a fly to left for out no.1 then got Ryan Zimmerman to K swinging before Adam LaRoche grounded out to second to strand Espinosa at the end of a 19-pitch frame. Edwin Jackson spotted the Phillies a leadoff runner as well, giving up a leadoff walk of his own, but that runner, Juan Pierre, was off on contact on a hit and run with Placido Polanco up, and Pierre was doubled up on a 9-3 DP when Polanco lined to right and the Nats' infielder's deked Pierre into thinking there was a play at second. A strong throw in from Harper, and a pop to first on a 3-0 pitch to Hunter Pence and the Nats' E-Jax was through his own scoreless first. 0-0.
• 1 for 1 for Ruiz: It was a quick 1-2-3 top of the second for the Phillies' Cole Hamels, who needed just 13 pitches to set the Nats down in order. Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was tossed by the home plate ump last night for arguing balls and strikes, singled to right in the first at bat of the Phillies' second to put the second straight leadoff runner on against Edwin Jackson. Two outs later, a two-out single by Freddy Galvis put two on for Phillies' second baseman Mike Fontenot, who lined to right where Bryce Harper made a diving attempt but came up empty. Ruiz cruised in from second and Galvis took third, but E-Jax stranded Galvis there when he got an inning-ending groundout from the opposing pitcher to end a 21-pitch third by the Nats' right-hander.
• Jesus Caught Stealing: Jesus Flores walked to start the third, but two outs later he was caught stealing with Bryce Harper at the plate. Flores? Stealing? Someone will ask Davey Johnson about that. Cole Hamels completed his third scoreless frame on 16 pitches with 38 pitches on his arm on the night. Edwin Jackson walked Hunter Pence on four pitches with two down in the Phillies' third, then gave up a two-out single by Carlos Ruiz to bring Shane Victorino up. The Phillies' speedy center fielder took a 2-1 change to right-center for a two-out RBI double and Philadelphia took an early 2-0 lead. A 20-pitch inning had Jackson up to 55 pitches, just 28 of them strike after three innings in CBP.
• Start Worrying: Bryce Harper battled in an eight-pitch at bat and walked to start the fourth, the third time tonight that Cole Hamels put the leadoff runner on, then Harper tagged and took second on a fly to center by Ryan Zimmerman, took third on another fly to Shane Victorino by Adam LaRoche, and was stranded when Cole Hamels popped up Ian Desmond to complete his fourth scoreless (and hitless) inning on the mound. Edwin Jackson need just five pitches to retire the bottom of the Phillies order in the home-half of the fourth, but the Phillies still held a 2-0 lead as they headed to the fifth.
• Still No Hits: Rick Ankiel grounded out to second on a 2-2 bender. Xavier Nady took 1-1 and 1-2 benders for called strikes and out no.2 and Jesus Flores rolled a 1-1 cutter to short for the third out of the fifth as Hamels held the Nats hitless through five. A 12-pitch frame had the Phillies' lefty at 77 pitches, 48 strikes, with 5 K's in 5.0 IP. Edwin Jackson sent the fifth, sixth and seventh Philly batters in a row down in the bottom of the fifth, throwing a quick 11-pitch frame that had him at 77 pitches total, but down 2-0 after five.
• No No-No: Cole Hamels retook the mound in the sixth, striking out the opposing pitcher for his 6th K of the day, but Danny Espinosa broke up the no-hit bid with a one-out double to left on a 2-1 fastball from the Phillies' left-hander. Hit number two followed quickly with Bryce Harper singling to right, but Hunter Pence came up throwing and nailed Espinosa at home. Carlos Ruiz with the tag and home plate ump Lance Barksdale with the call. "You're out!" Still 2-0 Phillies. Harper took second on the third straight hit, a single by Ryan Zimmerman, but Adam LaRoche's groundout to second ended Hamels' 6th scoreless frame.
• Insurance Run: Carlos Ruiz was 3 for 3 vs E-Jax after doubling to center to start the Phillies' sixth, and he took third on a sac bunt by Shane Victorino, but the Nats' right-hander battled back, striking out Ty Wiggington and popping up Freddy Galvis to end an eight-pitch frame. Cole Hamels collected K's no. 7 and 8 of the night from Ian Desmond and Xavier Nady in a quick 11-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the seventh after which the left-hander was at 102 pitches on the night. Still 2-0 Phillies over the Nats. Make that 3-0 as Mike Fontenot doubles to right to start the Phillies' seventh, takes second on a sac bunt by Hamels and scores on a suicide squeeze by Juan Pierre. 3-0 Philadelphia after seven.
• Runner on 3rd, No Outs?: Hunter Pence tracked down a fly to right by Jesus Flores, but the Phillies' right-fielder couldn't make the catch. Flores slid in safely at third with leadoff triple, the fourth of his career, but Philly shortstop Freddy Galvis made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a pop to short left by Steve Lombardozzi, a groundout to third wouldn't let Flores as advance and a Bryce Harper groundout ended the Nationals' eighth with Flores still on third. 2-0 Phillies. Hamels is done after 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K's, 114 pitches, 75 strikes, 9/3 GO/FO. Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez was wild again, but got the first two outs of the inning before giving up a solo HR by Shane Victorino that made it a 4-0 game. Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon was warm so he came out for the ninth. A 95 mph two-seam fastball got Ryan Zimmerman looking, but Adam LaRoche got hold of a 3-1 fastball from the Phillies' closer and broke up the shutout with a one-out solo HR to right. LaRoche's 8th made it a 4-1 game. Ian Desmond K'd looking at full-count fastball outside. Two down, but Rick Ankiel extended the inning with a two-out double to right-center before Xavier Nady's groundout to short ended the game. 4-1 Phillies.
The Nationals once again fail at a chance to sweep a series, coming up empty in game three after winning the first two in Citizens Bank. And their six-game win streak in Citizens Bank Park is over.
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