Phillies stall Nationals’ drive to NL East title
WASHINGTON — Mark Leiter Jr. was born in Florida and his grandparents live in Jupiter on the east coast of the state.
But with Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, his grandparents and other relatives from the Sunshine State are staying at Leiter’s home in New Jersey.
With one less thing to worry about, Leiter pitched six innings and got the win Saturday night as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the first-place Washington Nationals 5-4.
The win delayed at least for a day the defending National League East champions’ bid to clinch a second straight title. The Nationals’ magic number is at two after the Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 6-5.
“It is a good team,” Leiter said of the Nationals. “They have a lot of wins for a reason. They hit a couple of mistakes. I am happy we came out on top. I just like I had pretty good command of all of my pitches. Try to minimize the damage if you get in a tough spot.”
Rookie Rhys Hoskins hit his 14th homer, walked with the bases loaded and stole his first base. Cesar Hernandez was 3-for-5 with one RBI in the win.
“For me, that was a key situation,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of the Hoskins’ RBI walk in the fourth. “We talk about his plate discipline. It was a good night for the Phillies.”
The Phillies (54-88) improved to a still-dismal 26-51 on the road while the first-place Nationals (87-55) had their winning streak snapped at five.
“They kept us in it,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said of his bullpen. “They gave us a chance to win it. We had a number of good opportunities.”
Leiter (3-5), in his first appearance against Washington, gave up four runs on six hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in six innings. Edubray Ramos pitched a scoreless seventh for the Phillies, Luis Garcia fanned all three batters in the eighth as hit 100 miles per hour and Hector Neris went the ninth for his 20th save as he got rookie Victor Robles for the last out on a grounder with Michael A. Taylor on second.
“It is always good to pitch in close games,” said Garcia, who now has a 2.63 ERA this year.
Taylor, who had two hits with three RBIs, had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to 5-4 in the sixth. But Leiter retired pinch hitter Adam Lind on a groundout to end the threat.
Howie Kendrick was 2-for-4 for Washington and scored twice. The loser was Washington starter Edwin Jackson (5-5), who is now 2-7 in his career against the Phillies. Nick Williams was 2-for-5 for the Phillies.
“It is the big leagues. You have to be aggressive in the strike zone,” Jackson said. “If you don’t execute, that is what happens.”
There were three solo homers among the first 10 batters of the game. Kendrick hit his eighth homer of the year to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first.
The Phillies responded with two homers of their own in the second. Rookie phenom Hoskins led off with his 14th homer in 30 games. Two batters later, Maikel Franco (two hits) cranked a shot over the Phillies bullpen in left to make it 2-1 on his 20th homer of the year.
Philadelphia scored three runs in the fourth to take a 5-1 lead.
Cameron Rupp drove in a run with a bloop single to right, Hernandez had an infield single to plate another run and Hoskins walked with the bases loaded for the third run.
Washington cut the lead to 5-3 as Taylor hit a two-run homer to left off Leiter in the fourth. It was the 16th homer of the year for Taylor and his second in two games.
Jackson, who has played with 12 teams, went 3 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits and five earned runs with three walks and five strikeouts to come out on the short end against a rookie hurler.
“You go as long as you can until they tell you are done,” Leiter said. “They have a lot of wins for a reason. They have an incredible bench. They have a great lineup. They are on top of the division for a reason.”
The Nationals will try to clinch the division at home Sunday.
“They are going to clinch eventually. Hopefully it won’t be tomorrow,” Mackanin said late Saturday.
NOTES: Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), diagnosed with brain cancer in July, was at the game. ... Phillies RHP Ben Lively (3-5, 3.92) is slated to face Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (12-4, 2.78) in the series finale Sunday. ... Washington OF Jayson Werth and RHPs Joe Blanton and Ryan Madson were part of the 2008 Phillies World Series team. ... Phillies OF Odubel Herrera had his hitting streak stopped at 21 games as he went 0-for-4.