The Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies will have a lot more reasons to dislike each other after the final stretch of the 2012 season is over. In the first of six games between a Washington team fighting for its first division title and a Philadelphia club clinging to the hope of a sixth straight playoff appearance, The Phils bested the Nats 6-3 at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Darin Ruf, Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown homered to back a solid pitching performance by Cole Hamels as the Phillies remained within five games of the final NL wild card spot while the Nats saw their division lead shrink to four games over Atlanta, which beat Miami to clinch a playoff spot of its own. The Nats’ magic number for clinching the NL East remains at five, and even if they were to win the remaining two games in Philadelphia, they would have to wait until their next series in St. Louis for a chance to clinch the division.
After Hamels (16-6) limited the Nats to three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and a walk over six innings, the Nats could not solve the Philadelphia bullpen, as five relievers pitched perfect ball the rest of the way.
Ross Detwiler (10-7) took the loss for the Nats with a line full of fives: Five innings, five hits and five runs, all earned. he struck out three and walked three. The heavy damage came in the third, with the score already tied at 1, when the Phillies scored four runs. As is often the case, walks — to John Mayberry and Chase Utley — got Detwiler in trouble. Ryan Howard followed with a single to score Mayberry, and Ruiz then hit a home run to left, scoring Utley and Howard.
Detwiler was perfect after that, setting down nine straight batters, but the damage was done. The Nats rallied in the fifth when Bryce Harper singled to drive in Kurt Suzuki, who led off with a single, and Ryan Zimmerman singled to score Harper. Adam LaRoche singled to put the tying run on first base, but Michael Morse grounded out to third to end the threat.
Crai g Stammen relieved Detwiler in the sixth and promptly gave up a solo shot to Brown, then walked the bases loaded with one out before striking out Mayberry. Michael Gonzalez induced a ground out from Utley to limit the damage to one run.
The Nats struck first in the second inning, when Danny Espinosa walked with two outs, stole second, and then scored when Kurt Suzuki singled on a hit-and-run. But the Phillies answered in the bottom of the inning with Ruf’s first major league homer — and hit — a towering shot to left field.
Champ of the Game: Suzuki. He has become Mr. clutch for the Nats, with 14 RBIs in September. Unfortunately, the Nats need that kind of production higher in the order.
Chump of the Game: Detwiler. He had only one bad inning, but at this time of year, that’s all it takes to lose a game or even a series. The young left-hander has pitched well in key situations this year, and he’s going to have to step it up for the team to make any kind of deep run.