A day after walking off the Philadelphia Phillies with his fifth game-winning home run of his career and second of the season, Bryce Harper left the yard once again in the first inning with a solo shot to put the Nats on the board.
Washington Nationals’ starter Gio Gonzalez had himself a day, working around a long first inning to settle in and induce eight ground ball outs in nearly seven innings of work.
Despite falling victim to a couple of loud outs early, Trea Turner stayed locked in and pulled a 3-1 pitch off Phillies’ starter Jeremy Hellickson deep for a two-run home run and put the Nats ahead 3-0.
Gonzalez gave up a solo home run to Tommy Joseph, but the bullpen took over and got the Nats into the ninth with the home team up by two, 3-1.
Shawn Kelley got a crack at the ninth inning, but a home run off the bat of Aaron Altherr and back-to-back doubles courtesy of Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp tied things up, 3-3.
Nats manager Dusty Baker then called on Koda Glover to get the final two outs, and he did, but not before allowing another runner to cross the plate and give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.
Washington would be unable to get a rally going against Hector Neris in the bottom of the ninth, ending the game on a sour note for the home team.
Game 2 of the doubleheader scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Nationals now 23-13
Here’s how it happened:
• Gio Gonzalez entered Sunday’s matinée with a 10-6 record and 2.66 ERA in 21 career starts against the Phillies, but he ran into a jam early in the first inning.
Daniel Nava drew a one-out walk then moved to second when Aaron Altherr reached on an infield single that Anthony Rendon couldn’t get a grip on.
The Nats’ left-hander was able to strike out Tommy Joseph and force Maikel Franco into flying out to center field, but not before he tossed 30 pitches.
• After walking off Philadelphia in his final at-bat Saturday night, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate and left the yard once again.
Harper hit starter Jeremy Hellickson’s 81 mph changeup on a rope right over the wall in right-center field to give the Nationals an early 1-0 lead.
Anthony Rendon would then follow with a two-out triple to bring Daniel Murphy up with an RBI opportunity, but Murphy popped out to short to end the threat.
• Ryan Zimmerman was given the first game of the double header off, with Dusty Baker penciling Adam Lind in at first base to give the veteran pinch hitter a rare start.
He would not squander the opportunity, singling through the shift into right field to put the leadoff man on in the bottom of the second.
Gonzalez would come to the plate two outs later and single to right. Lind was able to move to third when Nava tried to gun Gonzalez out at first and threw wide of Tommy Joseph. Trea Turner, who lined out to deep left field in his first at-bat, hit his second hard-hit ball of the afternoon straight at second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
• Both pitchers would settle in after long first innings. Hellickson retired seven straight Nationals after the Gonzalez base hit to get the Phillies into the fifth inning down by just one.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez faced the minimum 12 batters between the second and fifth innings. He walked two hitters, but both baserunners were quickly erased on double play balls.
• Michael Taylor finally got back the Nats back in the hit column with a knock up the middle for a leadoff single. Gonzalez bunted Taylor over to second on the next pitch, bringing up Turner looking to find a stroke of luck. He would on a 3-1 count, getting all of 90 mph fastball on the inner half and crushing into the left field seats for a two-run homer to put the Nationals up 3-0.
Hellickson would finish out the inning without allowing further damage, but Phillies manager Pete Mackanin would send the resting Odubel Herrera to the plate to pinch hit for his pitcher and end his afternoon.
• Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2 HRs, 75 P, 49 S, 2/2 GO/FO
• Gonzalez continued dealing in the the sixth. He allowed a single by Herrera with no one out, but then forced Hernandez to ground into Philadelphia’s third double play of the game and struck out Nava looking on a 90 mph fastball that painted the bottom edge of the strike zone.
• Despite that 30-pitch first inning, the southpaw took the mound in the seventh at 97 pitches. Gonzalez finally gave up his first run of the game when Joseph took him deep to right field for a solo home run to bring Philadelphia to within two.
He would get another out when Franco flied out but was knocked out of the game when the pinch-hitting Cameron Rupp singled to left.
Matt Albers entered the game and forced Freddy Galvis to line out to Murphy at second and end the inning.
• Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 112 P, 63 S, 8/3 GO/FO
• Reliever Joely Rodriguez worked scoreless sixth and seventh innings, walking Rendon and hitting Murphy with a pitch in the sixth and allowing a single to Taylor in the seventh but otherwise escaping the two frames unscathed.
• Albers stayed on the mound for the eighth and got the first out by getting Ty Kelly to pop out to Turner at short. Brock Stassi then followed with a double to left and Dusty Baker swiftly pulled Albers in favor of Enny Romero.
Romero got the Nats through the frame by forcing Hernandez into hitting a liner to Harper and benefiting by a Derek Jeter-esque play courtesy of Turner.
• After Brian Goodwin popped out against Joaquin Benoit in the bottom half of the inning, Harper singled and Rendon walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Murphy would then pop out to short, bringing up pinch hitter Chris Heisey as the Nats’ final hope for driving in insurance runs before Shawn Kelley took over for the save. Heisey would get jammed, however, putting the game in Kelley’s hands with the home team still up two.
• Kelley entered the game looking for his first save since coming off the disabled list Friday. He promptly gave up a leadoff home run to Aaron Altherr, then a double off the center field wall courtesy of Franco two batters later that just missed clearing the fence by a foot and put the tying run in scoring position.
Two pitches later, Rupp plugged the gap in left center and tied the game. Despite his strong performance, Gonzalez was no longer in line for the win.
Kelley then walked Galvis and Baker pulled him in favor of Koda Glover.
The Nats’ bullpen woes wouldn’t end there, as Glover gave up a single to Kelly that gave Philadelphia a 4-3 lead.
Michael Saunders then flew out to center for the second out, but Hernandez hit a ground ball up the middle that Murphy made a diving stop on to load the bases.
Nava then grounded out to late-sub Ryan Zimmerman at first and sent things to the bottom of the ninth, but the damage was done.
That’s right, folks. The summary of the top of the ninth was a whopping three paragraphs. That’s how things have been going this season.
• Matt Wieters led off the inning with a single, but Taylor popped out to the catcher and Zimmerman grounded into a fielder’s choice for two quick outs.
That brought Turner to the plate, who entered the game with just one career walk-off hit. Unfortunately for the Nats, that would not change and Turner grounded out to Franco at third.
Nationals now 23-13