Phillies do just enough to slip past Nationals

Starter Roberto Hernandez brought his "A" game, allowing just five hits and one unearned run in eight innings. ALEX BRANDON / AP
Starter Roberto Hernandez brought his "A" game, allowing just five hits and one unearned run in eight innings. ALEX BRANDON / AP
Posted: August 03, 2014

WASHINGTON - Early in the season, the Phillies' challenge was finding an outfield that could collectively play at a respectable major-league level. Now the challenge is finding everybody at-bats.

While Marlon Byrd has been solid in right field, center and left had previously left the Phillies wanting for more production.

The outfield has reversed course lately, and another example was provided during Friday's 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

The Phillies' first run was scored by leftfielder Grady Sizemore and the second came on a solo home run by Byrd.

It was the second consecutive win for the Phillies over the National League East leaders.

"I think we've all been playing well," said Sizemore, who has hit safely in 13 of his 15 starts for the Phillies. "It's probably been almost a tough call each day, trying to figure out who to play."

The outfielders and rest of the team got more than a little help from Phillies righthander Roberto Hernandez, who allowed just one unearned run in eight innings. He gave up just five hits, while striking out three and serving one intentional walk in throwing 94 pitches, 59 for strikes.

"I was throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and trying not to overthrow," Hernandez said.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless but nerve-racking ninth for his 26th save. Papelbon made it interesting, serving one-out singles to Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond to put runners on first and second. Bryce Harper struck out on a 3-2 splitter for the second out. Papelbon then ended the game by striking out Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Nationals hit a lot of hard balls off Hernandez, but frequently right at Phillies.

Besides Sizemore and Byrd, centerfielder Ben Revere entered the night having hit .388 in his previous 30 games (45-116), which led all National League players in hits and average over that span.

And Domonic Brown, who wasn't in the starting lineup for the third consecutive night, is hitting for his highest average (.268) and OPS (.715) this month. Manager Ryne Sandberg said Brown was ill, but didn't say whether he would have started if healthy.

So currently there are four for three spots. And that doesn't count Darin Ruf, a left-field option.

"Whether they're feeding off each other or whatever it might be, competing against each other, whatever it is, they're all playing well," Sandberg said of his outfield.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Sizemore hit a two-out double to left that Harper failed to run down. After Carlos Ruiz walked, Cody Asche drilled a run-scoring single to right field.

In the bottom of the inning, Washington tied the score largely due to a LaRoche pop-up that Hernandez and third baseman Ashe had fall in between them. Asche then compounded the mistake by throwing wildly in an attempt to get the slow-footed LaRoche at first.

LaRoche ended up on third with a single and two-base error and scored on Ian Desmond's RBI single to center.

The Phillies were foiled by rightfielder Jayson Werth in the fifth. With Asche on second base, Revere hit a single to right. Werth then gunned down Asche at the plate for his sixth outfield assist this year and 79th of his career.

Byrd, who struck out three times, gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead with a sixth-inning homer to right off hard-luck losing pitcher Doug Fister. Byrd's 21st home run came off an 88 m.p.h. fastball.

"It was the first one he didn't locate, he left it on the third instead of right on the black where it had been all night," Byrd said. "It was one of those things where I took one good swing in four at-bats and it worked."

That was the difference on a night the outfield continued its recent turnaround.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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