The 34-36 Washington Nationals entered tonight's series finale in Philadelphia on a three-game losing streak, having dropped the third of three on the road in Cleveland and the first two of three in Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals and Phillies started play tied for second in the NL East, so the Nats were trying to avoid getting swept into third place in the division they won last season. Their opening day second baseman was struggling to make contact at the plate with their top minor league affiliate. Their 20-year-old 2010 no.1. overall pick was a day or two away from resuming "baseball activities" after injuring his knee. They were near the bottom of the NL in AVG, OBP and SLG. Their GM and manager were defending their hitting coach to reporters because those in search of an explanation for the team's offensive woes don't like the Nats' hitter's approach.
They had their 2012 21-game winner on the mound in Philadelphia, though, and one game left in Citizens Bank Park before a seven-game homestand back in the nation's capital.
They saw a total of eight pitches in a 1-2-3 top of the first vs Phillies' right-hander Kyle Kendrick.
Phillies' leadoff man Ben Revere lined to left-center on a 1-1 curve from Gio Gonzalez for a single in the first at bat of the bottom of the first, and Michael Young made it 2-0 early with a two-run home to left and just over the wall on a 2-2 fastball from the Nationals' left-hander. Gonzalez allowed nine home runs in 199.1 IP in 2012. Young's third home run of 2013 was the ninth hit off the Nats' starter in 84.2 IP this season. Gonzalez was at 24 pitches total when he struck Domonic Brown out to end the first.
Adam LaRoche singled to right to start the Nationals' second, but he was stranded at first three outs later when Kyle Kendrick completed his second scoreless at 25 pitches overall. Gio Gonzalez struck out the third and fourth straight batters in a row for the first two outs of the Phillies' second, and a groundout to Ryan Zimmerman at third ended a 12-pitch inning that had the Nats' lefty at 36 overall. Kurt Suzuki, Gonzalez and Denard Span went down in order in a nine-pitch top of the third that had Kendrick at 34 overall after three with the score still 2-0 Phillies. Gio Gonzalez needed 12 pitches to set down the seventh, eighth and ninth-straight batters after Michael Young's home run and finish three innings at 48 pitches total.
Kyle Kendrick threw a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 4th, retiring Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche in order for nine-straight outs of his own following LaRoche's leadoff single in the second. 48 overall after four scoreless by the Phillies' right-hander.
Gio Gonzalez's streak of retired batters ended with a leadoff walk to Jimmy Rollins in the home-half of the fourth. The left-hander erased the runner, however, when Gonzalez struck Ryan Howard out with a full-count curve with Rollins running. Rollins was caught stealing, dead-to-rights at second on a strong throw to the bag by Kurt Suzuki. Gonzalez threw a 94 mph 2-2 fastball by Domonic Brown for out no.3 of the fourth and K no. 7 in 4.0 IP. An 18-pitch inning left the Nationals' left-hander at 66 overall after four.
Jimmy Rollins showed off the range and made a spinning throw behind second base to get Jayson Werth at first for the first out of the fifth on a grounder up the middle. Ian Desmond grounded out to third. Steve Lombardozzi grounded out to second. Kyle Kendrick had five scoreless on 56 pitches after an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 5th. 2-0 Philadelphia. Ian Desmond made a backhand play deep in the hole and a strong throw to first. Ryan Zimmerman showed off his glove on a sharp grounder to third. Adam LaRoche caught a line drive and Gio Gonzalez was through the fifth after just seven pitches at 73 overall, but down 2-0. 14 of 15 set down.
Kurt Suzuki was the thirteenth straight batter set down by Kyle Kendrick after he grounded to short to start the sixth. Gio Gonzalez was the fourteenth. Denard Span took a 1-2 cutter to become number fifteen. Eight-pitch inning for Kendrick. 64 overall. Gio Gonzalez walked the opposing pitcher. A 94 mph 1-2 fastball got Ben Revere swinging for out no.1 of the Phillies' sixth and Gio Gonzalez's eighth K. An 85 mph 2-2 change fooled Michael Young. 9 Ks. A fly to center by Jimmy Rollins stranded the leadoff walk and ended the sixth after 20 pitches with Gonzalez at 93 pitches overall.
Anthony Rendon sent the 11th ground ball out of the night out to short to start the top of the seventh, becoming the sixteenth straight batter set down by Kyle Kendrick. Ryan Zimmerman's one-out walk gave the Nats their first baserunner since the second, but Adam LaRoche sent the 12th groundout of the night out to the mound for out no.2 of the top of the seventh. Zimmerman took second on the groundout and scored on an RBI single to right by Jayson Werth that cut the Phillies' lead in half. Ian Desmond K'd swinging at end the top of the seventh though, with Philadelphia still ahead 2-1 in the series finale in CBP.
Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown were the tenth and eleventh batters Gio Gonzalez struck out in 6.2 IP as the Nats' left-handed starter tied a career-high, but a fly to left by Delmon Young on Gonzalez's 108th pitch likely ended any chance of him setting a new mark.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 7.0 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 108 P, 65 S, 4/3 GO/FO
Kyle Kendrick retired Steve Lombardozzi and Kurt Suzuki in the top of the eighth, but Phillies' manager went to the pen for left-hander Antonio Bastardo with Chad Tracy set to pinch hit. Davey Johnson countered with pinch hitter Chris Marrero, but the right-handed hitter flew to center to end the Nats' half of the frame. Tyler Clippard came out for the bottom of the eighth and retired the Phillies in order on 10 pitches.
Denard Span started the top of the ninth against Jonathan Papelbon. 2-1 Phillies. Denard Span reached first safely on a single that bounced off Ryan Howard's glove. Anthony Rendon flew to right for out no.1. Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging through 1-2 fastball for out no.2. Adam LaRoche? 3-1 pitch in the dirt. Ball four. 2 on, 2 out for Nats' right fielder Jayson Werth? RBI single through short, 2-2 game when Span scores. Two blown saves for the Phillies' closer this year, both in this series. Ian Desmond K'd swinging to leave the go-ahead run at third, but the game was tied after eight and a half.
Tyler Clippard came back out for the bottom of the ninth and got a groundout to short, then one to third for the first two outs of the Phillies' half of the inning. A two-out walk to Jimmy Rollins brought Ryan Howard up with the winning run on, so Davey Johnson went to the pen for rookie lefty Ian Krol. Krol walked Howard to bring Domonic Brown to the plate with runners on first and second, but a weak pop to short ended the ninth. 2-2 after nine.
Mike Adams got a groundout to short by Steve Lombardozzi for the first out of the tenth. Kurt Suzuki doubled to left, lining over just over Michael Young's glove and into left field. A wild pitch with Jeff Kobernus up moved Suzuki to third, but Kobernus grounded to second forcing Suzuki to stay put. Two down. Denard Span? Pop to foul territory off third. 2-2 after nine and a half. Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the tenth and fell behind 3-1 to John Mayberry before striking him out. Freddy Galvis K'd swinging on a 2-2 change in the dirt. Carlos Ruiz singled to center with two down, collecting the Phillies' first hit since Michael Young's home run, but Michael Martinez flew to left to end the tenth.
Michael Stutes took the mound in the eleventh. Anthony Rendon flew out to right. Ryan Zimmerman worked the count full and doubled to left-center on a slider from Stutes. The Phillies walked Adam LaRoche to get to Jayson Werth. Werth thought he'd walked on a low 3-0 pitch that was called a strike. The 3-1 pitch missed and loaded the bases for Ian Desmond, who quickly fell behind 0-2, went to 2-2 and then crushed a 2-2 slider for a GRAND SLAM!! Desmond goes yard!! 6-2 Nationals! 6-2 Nationals!! Desmond's 10th HR of the year.
Rafael Soriano came out to pitch the bottom of the eleventh. Michael Young hit a one-out single. Jimmy Rollins popped to second for out no.2. Ryan Howard K'd swinging. Ballgame. Sweep averted. Nats win, 6-2 final.
Nationals now 35-36