Washington Nationals Game Recap #57 - Nats Survive a Late-Inning Scare Against the Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

Friday's series opener against the Phillies looked like another night when the bullpen would let the Nationals down. Washington jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the second inning and led 7-1 after four frames. Although the Phillies battled back to tie the game at seven runs apiece in the top of the eighth, an RBI single in the bottom of the inning proved to be the difference, as the Nationals were 8-7 victors.

Perhaps more importantly, or at least more humorously, the win knotted the Nationals with Philadelphia for fourth place in the NL East.

Strangely enough, this game appeared likely to be a pitchers duel entering the night, with emerging ace Josiah Gray facing multi-time Cy Young dark horse Zach Wheeler. This night wasn't either of their best work. Gray lasted five and one-third innings, allowing four runs - one of which scored after he was replaced on the mound - including two home runs, both of which were hit by Nicholas Castellanos.

It was Wheeler, whoever, who had the much more troublesome outing - even against the weaker lineup. The Phillies arguable ace was unable to last through the fourth inning before throwing 90 pitches and surrendering seven earned runs.

The first two runs were fueled by Jeimer Candelario. The switch-hitting third baseman delivered an RBI double to left field in the first inning, then scored on a Corey Dickerson sacrifice fly two batters later.

CJ Abrams ignited the lineup the following inning with a one-out double and immediately scored via an RBI base hit by Alex Call. Candelario then laced another double into the outfield to drive in Call and Luis Garcia, and Joey Meneses brought him home to put the Nationals ahead by six runs.

Castellanos and Garcia exchanged solo home runs in the road and home halves of the fourth inning, but then the Phillies put up a pair of crooked numbers, thanks in part to another rough night from Carl Edwards Jr and the Nationals bullpen. Castellanos drove in four total runs in the sixth and seventh innings - via a two-run homer off Edwards and a single off Hunter Harvey - with a Brandon Marsh sixth inning RBI knock sandwiched between.

Marsh later scored in the eighth inning via a throwing error by Abrams on what would've otherwise been an inning-ending groundout by Kyle Schwarber. That tied the game, but that didn't last. A two-out walk and stolen base by Call set up Thomas with a chance to be the hero, and he delivered with a single to center field.

Kyle Finnegan came in for the pseudo save - although it goes in the record book as a win - in the top of the ninth. Although he gave up a double to Castellanos, which was his third extra-base hit and fourth total base knock of the night, Finnegan escaped the inning clean. With a man on second base, forced a Trea Turner fly-out and J.T. Realmuto pop-out to give the Nationals the 8-7 win.

One of the storylines of the night was the return of a trio of ex-Nationals to Washington. While Schwarber had a 2-for-5 night with a run scored in the leadoff spot, Bryce Harper and Turner combined to go 1-for-9 with four strikeouts. Their lone hit was a sixth-inning double by Turner, who has dropped to the No. 5 spot in the Phillies lineup and saw his OPS drop to .648 in his debut season with his new team.

The two teams have a rematch on Saturday, with a chance to claim fourth place outright in the NL East. The Phillies will sent out left-hander Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20 ERA), while the Nationals turn to fellow southpaw MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57 ERA) - last week's co-player of the week, along with Garcia.

While neither team will have a clear advantage on the mound, it should be noted that the Nationals lineup tends to have more success against lefties - Friday's early onslaught against a righty notwithstanding.

Washington's bats are quietly hotter than you think, too. The traditional top four in the lineup (Thomas, Garcia, Candelario and Meneses) are all batting .290 or higher in their last 30 games, as is Dominic Smith. Keibert Ruiz also has a trio of home runs in his last three games, and likely starting left fielder Stone Garrett has seven hits in his last 21 at bats. If that all continues, expect the Nationals to move out of the cellar in the division standings.

Washington Nationals Record: 25-32