The baseball left Bryce Harper's bat Friday night and there was no reason to move.
Not for Harper, who stood near home plate and admired his blast as it rocketed out of Citizens Bank Park. Not for Rhys Hoskins, who took a few steps toward the left-field wall in the fourth inning of an 17-7 loss the Nationals and realized his effort was futile. And not for Yacksel Rios, who watched his 98 mph fastball get hammered after he was pushed into action quite early when Nick Pivetta fizzled.
Harper's three-run homer put the Phillies in a 10-run hole. It was one of Washington's seven homers, three of which came in the ninth off the beleaguered Hector Neris. If the game wasn't yet a blowout, it sure was now. But even the fans had no reason to move. It was fireworks night and the Phillies were going to make the crowd earn their show by sitting through a long night at the yard.
Pivetta recorded just five outs and allowed seven runs. He was lifted in the second inning, a batter after allowing his third homer. The Nationals tagged him for seven hits, including home runs from Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Anthony Rendon. It was the second time this season that the Nats chased Pivetta before the end of the second inning. The Phillies trailed by four runs on Friday after Pivetta threw just 15 pitches. The Phillies never had a chance.
"I left the team out to dry," Pivetta said. "It's kind of disappointing. I really thought things could have gone the other way but they didn't."
The Nationals entered Friday losers of five of their last six games after dropping Thursday's series opener with the Phils. They had scored just four runs in their last 27 innings. This lineup — led by Harper, who now leads the National League in homers with 20 — seemed due for a night like this. A win on either Saturday or Sunday will give the Phillies a winning record over their last 25 games, which has been their most grueling stretch of the season.
Pivetta's rough night — he struggled with his fastball command and the Nats pounced — was the second time in four starts that he allowed six runs or more. He ended May with a 1.13 ERA in his final four starts of the month but faced inconsistency in June. Sandwiched between his two duds were two strong starts where Pivetta combined for 20 strikeouts in 121/3 innings. His fastball struggled on Friday but it has shown an elite ability to miss bats. It is something to cling to, even on a rough night.
"His fastball was kind of leaky. He was trying to drive it inside to lefthanded hitters and it was leaking back over the plate," manager Gabe Kapler said. "This lineup is really good. Even though they haven't been performing perfectly over the last couple weeks, it's a giant of a lineup. It's a deep lineup. It's a good lineup and they're going to make you pay for mistakes."
The Phillies trailed by 11 runs before they finally scored and their first run took two outs: Maikel Franco grounded into a double play in the fourth with the bases loaded to score Carlos Santana.
Hoskins hit a two-run homer in the fifth, his third straight game with a homer. He battled with Nationals starter Erick Fedde for 13 pitches before driving his 14th offering to center field. Kapler said it was "one of the better at-bats I've ever seen." Hoskins has eight homers in 19 games since returning from the disabled list and it is the fourth time he has homered in three straight games since he reached the majors. Hoskins does not remember ever having a longer at-bat. He extended it by fouling off seven straight pitches before homering.
"I got back to the dugout and made a comment to someone like, 'Man, that was draining,' " Hoskins said. "I think more mentally than anything. Just trying to stay stubborn to a plan that I think is going to work. It's funny: Maybe you're a little tired and you're trying to do less and you hit the ball harder. It's kind of how it seems to work."