Domonic Brown's walk-off single lifts Phillies past Nationals, 5-4
THE SHAVING cream was still visible in Domonic Brown's hair when he arrived at his locker in a T-shirt and shorts.
The single he knocked through the middle of the Nationals infield was not the most impressive hit of the night, but it was the last one, and that meant a heck of a lot for a Phillies team coming off a brutal road trip where they lost seven of 10 games.
Not only did it give them a 5-4 win over a key National League East rival last night, but it erased the possibility of a season spinning even further out of control, which easily could have been the result after Jonathan Papelbon allowed a game-tying home run to Chad Tracy with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning for his first blown save.
"We're trying to get some games on the Nats," said Brown, whose game-winning single off of Fernando Abad with two outs in the ninth improved the Phillies to 34-37 and pulled them to within in a game of Washington for second place in the East. "It feels good to come in and get a win, especially after a long road trip."
Brown, whose hot May is one of the main reasons the Phillies still entertain thoughts of contending for a playoff spot, entered the pivotal at-bat with four hits in his previous 27 at-bats. But Ryan Howard has quietly started picking up the slack, and last night he showed what kind of impact he can have on a game. The first baseman accounted for two of the Phillies' runs, going 3-for-3 with a solo home run and an RBI single as the Phillies took a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning. The home run was his first since May 29, the second longest drought of his career.
"If he goes, we go," Brown said. "That's the Big Piece, as you guys call him. He's definitely going to hit."
John Lannan held his former team to two runs over five innings, allowing six hits and one walk with four strikeouts. The veteran lefty was making his first start since he suffered a strained quadriceps tendon against the Reds on April 17. Lannan put together a 1-2-3 fifth inning against the heart of the Nationals order before leaving the game with 92 pitches. He was replaced by Mike Stutes, who retired all six batters he faced in two scoreless innings to send the two-run lead to the eighth.
"It was huge," Lannan said. "For the bullpen, for myself, to get a 1-2-3 inning under my belt."
In the eighth, setup man Mike Adams allowed a double to Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI single to Ian Desmond as the Nationals cut the lead to 4-3. Lefty Antonio Bastardo got lefty slugger Adam LaRoche to ground out with the tying run on first base to end the eighth with the tying run on base. But, with two outs and two strikes on Tracy, Papelbon allowed a high fly ball that came down in the first few rows of the seats inside the rightfield foul pole to tie the game at 4-4. It was Papelbon's first blown save in 14 opportunities.
The sting didn't last long.
The Phillies rallied in the ninth, getting a leadoff single by Ben Revere and a one-out single by Jimmy Rollins that moved Revere to third. After Abad struck out Steven LeRud, Brown fisted a pitch up the middle to give the Phillies the win.
Adams remains a concern for the Phillies. After signing a 2-year, $12 million contract, the veteran setup man retired seven of the first eight batters he faced on the season. Since then, he has allowed 33 of the 95 batters he has faced to reach base. Since returning from 16-day layoff due to a bad back, he has allowed runs in six of his 10 outings. His ERA on the season is 4.13.
Papelbon's run was the fifth run he has allowed in 25 2/3 innings on the season. Four of those five have scored on home runs. In fact, of the 27 runs Papelbon has allowed since joining the Phillies, 20 have scored on home runs.
A victory tonight would tie the Phillies with the 34-35 Nationals for second place in the East. The teams began their three-game series trailing the first-place Braves by 8 1/2 games and 6 1/2 games respectively. The Phillies and Nats trailed the Pirates by the same margins for the second wild-card spot in the National League.
A productive Howard would help bridge that gap. The slugger has struggled with a sore knee all season - manager Charlie Manuel termed the condition "arthritis" and said "it comes and goes" - but has picked up his play over the last month.
"His swing has definitely been getting better," Manuel said. "He's been putting the fat part of the bat on the ball."
Domonic Brown fouled a ball off his knee in the third innning and walked with a noticeable limp for a few innings, but said after the game that he is OK . . . It was Jonathan Papelbon's first blown save since Sept. 2, 2012 a Atlanta, snapping a streak of 20 consecutive saves.
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