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Washington Nationals blows another lead in 9th; lose to Philadelphia Phillies in extras, 5-2

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Brad Hand blew another save opportunity in the top of the ninth, and the Nationals lost their fourth straight, 5-2 final in extras...

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Washington’s offense struggled to score runs early again, trailing 1-0 after five and a half in the nation’s capital, but they put two runs up on the board in the bottom of the sixth, with Ryan Zimmerman doubling to left field, moving up on a groundout, and scoring on an RBI single by Starlin Castro for the first, 1-1.

Castro’s third hit of the game tied things up in the second of three with Philadelphia in D.C., and he scored the go-ahead run for the Nationals on a “triple” to right field by Alex Avila, when the Phillies’ center and right fielders, Odubel Herrera and Bryce Harper, ran into one another after letting the fly ball drop between them on the track, 2-1.

It stayed that way until the ninth, when Brad Hand gave up a game-tying home run to center off Odrubel Herrera’s bat, 2-2.

This one went to extras, and the Phillies scored three in the top of the tenth and handed the Nats their fourth straight loss, 5-2 final.

Lester vs Phillies: Two starts into his 16th MLB season, his first with the Nationals after signing a 1-year/$5M free agent deal this winter, Jon Lester, 37, whose 2021 campaign started late following surgery this spring and a stint on the COVID-IL, was (0-1) with a 2.70 ERA, four walks, six Ks, and a .243/.317/.324 line against in 10 IP before tonight.

The last time out before today, the left-hander gave up three runs on five hits in five-plus innings pitched against the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital.

Back on the mound in D.C. tonight, Lester fell behind 1-0 early, with Rhys Hoskins singling to start the top of the second inning, moving up on an Alec Bohm walk, and then scoring from second on Andrew Knapp’s RBI single to left, 1-0.

Lester gave up a leadoff single and a one-out walk in the top of the fifth inning, with Odubel Herrera hitting a line drive to left to start the inning before Andrew McCutchen walked with one down, and Bryce Harper hit a two-out liner to left that looked like it would bring in the second run, but Kyle Schwarber charged it, fired a throw home, and nailed Herrera at the plate for out No. 3 of a 22-pitch fifth which left Lester at 81 overall on the night.

A 16-pitch sixth, in which he worked around a leadoff walk, left Lester at 97 pitches overall and ended his outing...

Jon Lester’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 97 P, 58 S, 5/4 GO/FO.

Wheeler vs the Nationals: Following back-to-back losses in the second and third outings of his second season with the Phillies, Zack Wheeler has been on a dominant run, with a 2.73 ERA, seven walks, 29 Ks, and a .163/.226/.286 line against in 29 23 IP, with a complete game, nine-inning shutout last time out on the mound before tonight in which he threw 118 pitches and gave up just three hits.

Wheeler said after that start that he appreciated manager Joe Girardi letting him finish the outing even as his pitch count climbed.

“He has been around a while and he has a feel and I think he knows me by now,” Wheeler told reporters, as quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I’m a pretty honest guy, so if I’m feeling like I’m not on, or I might need somebody, I’ll tell him to just have somebody up. Today I felt fine. I kind of breezed through that game and I felt fine all the way through.”

Wheeler worked around a two-out single in the bottom of the first inning tonight, a one-out single in the second, and, after retiring the side in order in the third, a two-out walk and hit in the fourth, finishing four scoreless on 62 pitches, pitching with a 1-0 lead.

Jon Lester lined a single to left to lead off the fifth, and one out later an Andrew Stevenson bunt single put two on in front of Trea Turner, who K’d looking at a 97 MPH 2-2 fastball for out No. 2, leaving it up to Juan Soto, who K’d swinging at a 2-2 slider outside to strand both runners at the end of Wheeler’s fifth scoreless frame.

Ryan Zimmerman lined a double into the left-center gap on a 1-2 slider from Wheeler in the first at bat of the Nats’ sixth, took third on a Kyle Schwarber groundout, and scored on an RBI single to center by Starlin Castro (3 for 3). Castro came around to score in the next at bat, when Odubel Herrera and Bryce Harper converged and collided going for a fly to the warning track in right by Alex Avila, 2-1 Nationals.

Zack Wheeler’s Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 98 P, 65 S, 6/2 GO/FO.

Castro Streaking: Starlin Castro came into tonight’s game with a nine-game hit streak, over which he was 11 for 32 (.344/.447/.438) with three doubles, six walks, and one run scored. It didn’t take long for the third baseman to extend the streak, singling to center in his first AB.

Castro was 3 for 3 after driving in the tying run in the bottom of the sixth, 1-1, and he scored the go-ahead run as well, 3 for 3, RBI, run scored, before adding a single in the eighth, 4 for 4.

Bullpen Action: Sam Clay was first out of the pen for the Nationals in the top of the seventh, after the home team took a 2-1 lead, and the lefty gave up one- and two-out singles by Brad Miller and Jean Segura, respectively, that put runners on the corners for Bryce Harper, who grounded out to second to end the threat.

Connor Brogdon came on for the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh and retired the Nats in order.

Daniel Hudson retired the Phillies in order in a 14-pitch top of the eighth.

Brogdon returned to the mound in the Nationals’ half of the eighth, and got one out before the Phils went to the pen again for righty Ranger Suárez, who gave up a two-out single off Starlin Castro’s bat, walked Alex Avila, and allowed a base-loading single up the middle of the field by Josh Bell, before he struck Jordy Mercer out to end the threat.

Brad Hand got the ball in the ninth and retired one batter before Odubel Herrera hit a game-tying home run to center on an 0-1 slider up in the zone that cleared the wall, 2-2. Hand got the next two outs to keep it tied.

José Alvarado took over for the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth, and gave up a one-out double to right by Trea Turner.

An intentional walk to Juan Soto brought Ryan Zimmerman up, with the winning run on second base, and Zimmerman grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP.

Hand returned to the mound with Bryce Harper up on a free runner on second base, and went to a full count with the Phillies’ slugger before giving up a single to short left field.

Andrew McCutchen, the runner, moved to third on the hit.

Kyle Finnegan took over on the mound for the Nationals, and gave up an RBI single by Rhys Hoskins, 3-2.

Finnegan got a 6-4-3 DP out of Alec Bohm, but a two-out RBI hit by Nick Maton made it 4-2 Phillies, and Andrew Knapp drove in the Phillies’ fifth run, 5-2.

Héctor Neris stranded the free runner in a scoreless bottom of the tenth to end it.

Final Score: 5-2 Phillies

Nationals now 13-19