LaRoche homers twice; Nationals beat Phillies 3-2
WASHINGTON (AP) — Drew Storen felt right at home in his return to the ninth inning.
Storen got three outs for his second save, and the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 on Sunday to avoid a series sweep.
“Really, the only thing different is the run to the mound — fans are real into it,” Storen said. “You soak that in for a second, and move on, and lock in and do what you need to do.”
Adam LaRoche homered twice for Washington, and Scott Hairston hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly off Cole Hamels (8-7) in the sixth inning. Gio Gonzalez (8-9) allowed two runs in six-plus innings.
The Nationals had lost five straight against the Phillies. Washington leads the NL East by seven games over Atlanta, which lost 4-0 to Miami on Sunday.
A day after manager Matt Williams said he had removed Rafael Soriano from the closer role, Storen got Carlos Ruiz to fly out to left and struck out Marlon Byrd and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard in his 57th career save.
Storen spent most of 2012 recovering from elbow surgery, and then blew a save opportunity in Washington’s Game 5 loss to St. Louis in the division series that October. He found himself in the minors for portions of 2013.
He has 55 appearances this season, mostly in middle relief, but was back in his old role after Williams said he was going to a closer by committee, at least temporarily.
“We figure that (right-handed batters) Ruiz and Byrd are both going to hit . so that dictated Drew,” Williams said. “Since he got through those two guys well, we just left the inning to him.”
Hamels allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings in his first start since he combined with three relievers for a no-hitter against Atlanta. He also had a costly balk that moved Ian Desmond to third before Hairston’s tiebreaking fly ball to deep left.
“I’ve been doing that move since I’ve gotten to the big leagues,” Hamels said.
Hairston is 18 for 48 for his career against Hamels with 10 RBIs.
LaRoche’s first home run tied it at 1 in the second, and he went deep again in the fourth, tying it at 2 with a drive over the out-of-town scoreboard for his 23rd homer. He is 5 for 16 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last four games.
Darin Ruf’s sacrifice fly put the Phillies ahead in the top of the fourth.
The Phillies scored in the first when Grady Sizemore singled, reached third on Byrd’s base hit and then scored on center fielder Denard Span’s throwing error.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he thought Byrd should have been awarded home when Antony Rendon committed a second throwing error trying to get Sizemore at the plate.
“The argument was that he was already past second base and it’s two bases,” Sandberg said. “I asked if they could review that to check, which they opted to do, but they go on the headset and said that it was a non-reviewable play.”
Nationals: Gonzalez received a brief visit from a team trainer after he sprinted to avoid a double play in the fifth inning, but was cleared to continue. He said afterward he was suffering from a blister on his right foot.
Phillies: RHP Kyle Kendrick (8-11, 4.77 ERA) starts against Pittsburgh LHP Jeff Locke (6-4, 3.75 ERA) in Monday’s opener of a four-game series against the Pirates.
Nationals: RHP Doug Fister (12-6, 2.66 ERA) will try to snap a three-game losing streak when he faces LHP Mike Minor (6-9, 4.65 ERA) on Monday night in the first of three against Atlanta.