Anthony Rendon’s homer in ninth beats Phillies
PHILADELPHIA A bell rings every time the Phillies hit a home run here at Citizens Bank Park.
And on Tuesday night the bell tolled twice with Washington ace Max Scherzer on the mound, as he gave up a longball in the fourth and another in the fifth.
But there was no ringing bell in the top of the ninth as Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer off Phillies reliever Pat Neshek in a 5-4 comeback victory. Bryce Harper, who struck out in his first three at-bats, drew a walk to lead off the ninth and then Rendon went deep for a 4-3 lead.
Later in the ninth, Ryan Zimmerman doubled for the third time, stole his first base of the season and scored on a throwing error by catcher Jorge Alfaro for a 5-3 cushion as the Phillies had another poor night in the field.
The third-place Nationals are now 67-66 and 3 games back of second-place Philadelphia (70-62) in the National League East. Washington began the day eight games back of first-place Atlanta.
Washington, which won the first game here Monday 5-3, has now won a series on the road against a team with a winning record for the first time since May.
Justin Miller allowed an RBI double by the Phillies’ Wilson Ramos to make it 5-4 in the last of the ninth before reliever Greg Holland got the last two outs. The last one came as Phillies pinch runner Vince Velasquez left second base too early after a flyout by Jorge Alfaro. The game ended after replays showed Velasquez did indeed leave early.
The comeback win helped lighten the mood after pinch hitter Mark Reynolds was ejected in the eighth inning by home plate umpire Sam Holbrook after he was called out on strikes. Reynolds came back on the field to argue and then threw his batting gloves at Holbrook before departing on a night the game-time temperature was 92 degrees.
Scherzer had a shutout until Odubel Herrera hit a solo homer to right in the fourth to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. It was the 21st homer of the season for Herrera and his first since Thursday, when he hit a two-run shot off Scherzer at Nationals Park in the seventh inning of 2-0 win.
A less likely suspect to go deep was Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro, who launched a two-run shot over the center field wall for a 3-0 advantage in the fifth. It was his first career homer off Scherzer.
It took Scherzer 83 pitches to get through four innings. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the top of the sixth after giving up three runs and four hits in five innings tied for his shortest outing of the season. Scherzer had five strikeouts, giving him 249 for the year.
But in a showdown of Cy Young Award candidates, Philadelphia right-hander Aaron Nola got the best of Scherzer for the second time in five days.
Nola didn’t allow a hit until Rendon had a single in the fourth.
The Nationals trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the seventh as Rendon scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Matt Wieters and Zimmerman scored on the same play after a throwing error by Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana.
On the night, Nola struck out Harper swinging three times. The Phillies had won the first 12 starts Nola made at home this year. He gave up two runs, including one earned, in seven innings Tuesday.
Scherzer, Nola and Jake deGrom of the Mets are considered the favorites for the Cy Young Award this season in the National League.
“I know the three of them are really good; it is a good race,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before the game. “I am bias to Max (as the winner). I see him every day. Max is one of the best. He is well prepared; he competes every day. Not just every five days (when he pitches), but every day. Everything he does is for a reason.”
There were five teams ahead of the Nationals in the wild card race who had a record of at least nine games above .500 through Monday. For Washington to end the season 10 games over .500, it would have to win 19 of its last 29 contests.
The Nationals end a three-game series in Philadelphia on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. as Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez (7-11, 4.35) faces Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta (9-9, 3.37).
NOTES: The Nationals are 14-13 this month ... Washington has outscored its opponents by 76 runs this season while the Phillies have a run differential of plus-21. But the Phillies have won three more games than Washington.