Entering today, the Nats were 30-8 (.768) when scoring three or more runs, an incredible testament to the pitching staff. The fact that the Nationals had scored two or fewer runs in 30 games, however, was a similar testament to the offense’s futility. Tonight was one of those rare games where the offense showed up, if four runs counts as “showing up”, and picked up Dan Haren, who bumped up his already sky-high ERA to 5.72 today. It looked to be a textbook “blame Haren” loss, and I had the paragraph all written to back it up, until a swing of Chad Tracy‘s bat shattered that narrative.
His game-tying homer sent it to the bottom of the ninth, giving Jonathan Papelbon his first blown save of the year, but curious bullpen management doomed the Nats. Instead of sending in the team’s best reliever, closer Rafael Soriano, Davey Johnson chose to use Fernando Abad to face the top of the Phillies’ lineup. This is the second time his has happened on this road trip, the first time being for the bottom of the ninth in a tie game in Cleveland. It appears Davey may be afflicted with save-situation-itis, a disease that causes managers to not use closers until they are in save situations, opting to use lesser relievers who may blow tie games. Just like in Cleveland, Abad blew the game and took the loss. Those may have been the only two runs he has allowed all season, and perhaps Soriano would have blown it too, but Soriano should have been pitching there.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Chad Tracy’s game-tying home run (+36.8%)
Heading into the ninth inning, all seemed lost. The bottom third of the order was coming up, and while Kurt Suzuki and Steve Lombardozzihad combined for four hits on the day, they are a far cry from murderer’s row. The Nats’ odds got even longer when Suzuki and Lombo got out, sending the .138-hitting Tracy up to face Papelbon and his 1.46 ERA. But with an 0-2 count, Tracy took a fastball to right and shocked the Philadelphia crowd. This was his second game-tying homer in the eighth or later in the past week, the first coming in that 7-6 win over Cleveland.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Domonic Brown‘s walk-off single (-36.9%)
Ben Revere led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. One out later, another single by Jimmy Rollins put the speedy Revere on third, opening up the possibility of the sacrifice fly. After a brief parlay with pitching coach Steve McCatty, Abad rallied to get a strikeout and put two strikes down on Brown. However, Brown put the nail in the Nats’ coffin by knocking a flare up the middle, scoring Revere easily and winning it for the Phillies.
Champ of the Game: The trouble with dramatic ends of games is that the Champ and Chump are always so easy to predict. Of course, Tracy (+34.6%) earned this fully with his clutch homer, and was 1-2 overall. For the Phillies, it was obviously Brown (+30.1%) takes the cake with his walkoff hit. He had another hit and a walk on the day, going 2-4.
Chump of the Game: Abad (-37.0%) allowed three hits while recording just two outs. In keeping with predictability, can you guess who the Chump was for Philly? Yep, Papelbon (-21.6%), who proved the uselessness of the win stat by getting both the blown save and the win.