Gaffe by pinch-running pitcher costs Phils, Nats win 5-4
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Vince Velasquez was aggressive at the wrong time.
Velasquez, a pinch-running pitcher, was called out for leaving second base early while tagging up, resulting in a game-ending double play that gave the Washington Nationals a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
After Aaron Nola outpitched Max Scherzer for the second time in six days in a matchup of NL Cy Young Award contenders, the Phillies watched Washington rally for three runs in the ninth to take a 5-3 lead.
Wilson Ramos got Philadelphia within a run with a pinch-hit double in the bottom half, and Velasquez ran for the catcher. Greg Holland relieved and retired Jorge Alfaro on a fly ball to center, with Velasquez moving to third as the potential tying run. Velasquez slid past the bag but wasn’t tagged.
The Nationals, however, appealed that Velasquez left too soon, and he was called out. A replay upheld the ruling.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was trying to put pressure on the outfielder,” Velasquez said.
Manager Gabe Kapler told Velasquez after the game he should’ve stayed on second.
“He’s an inexperienced runner who gave us a valiant effort,” Kapler said. “He got overzealous.”
Anthony Rendon hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Pat Neshek (1-1) in the Nationals ninth. The Nationals trailed 3-2 when Bryce Harper drew a leadoff walk from Tommy Hunter. Neshek surrendered Rendon’s 17th homer, and Washington added another run on an error after Ryan Zimmerman hit his third double of the game and stole third.
“I was just trying to see a pitch to hit,” Rendon said about connecting on a 1-2 slider.
It was the latest gut-wrenching loss for the Phillies, who are 6-13 since Aug. 8 and fell 4 ½ games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.
“It’s a super difficult loss to swallow,” Kapler said. “I don’t worry about this group. They’re tenacious and resilient.”
Alfaro and Odubel Herrera hit homers off Scherzer to hand Nola a 3-0 lead. But poor defense and a shaky bullpen blew it.
Nola gave up two runs — one earned — and four hits, striking out eight in seven innings. He threw eight dominant innings in Philadelphia’s 2-0 win at Washington last Thursday.
Scherzer gave up three runs and four hits in five innings, tying for his shortest outing of the season on April 4 at Atlanta.
“It was awesome,” Scherzer said of the comeback. “A great team win.”
Herrera, who hit a two-run shot off Scherzer last week, gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Batting cleanup for the first time in his career, Herrera drove a 2-2 fastball into the right-field seats for his 21st homer. Alfaro connected in the fifth.
Nola took a shutout into the seventh before Rendon led off with a single and Zimmerman hit a double with one out. Matt Wieters followed with a grounder to first. Carlos Santana stepped on the bag for the second out but made an errant throw home allowing Zimmerman to also score.
Koda Glover (1-2) tossed a scoreless eighth for the win.
Nola-Scherzer II was the second matchup of starters with at least 150 innings and a sub-2.25 ERA since they did it last week. Previously, it hadn’t been done since St. Louis’ John Tudor faced Mets ace Dwight Gooden on Sept. 11, 1985. Nola lowered his ERA to 2.10 and Scherzer’s rose to 2.22.
The Phillies acquired veteran slugger Jose Bautista from the New York Mets for a player to be named or cash. Bautista batted .196 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the Braves and Mets this season. A six-time All-Star for Toronto from 2010-15, the 37-year-old Bautista has 342 career homers. He struck out swinging as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
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Nationals pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds was ejected after being called out on strikes in the eighth. After walking toward the dugout, he came back and threw his batting gloves.
Nationals: Closer Sean Doolittle threw a full bullpen session before the game and he’s scheduled to pitch a simulated game Friday. The All-Star lefty has been on the disabled list since July 10 with left toe inflammation.
Phillies: Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is expected to make another start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley before he’s recalled after rosters are expanded. Eickhoff hasn’t pitched in the majors this season because of a strained lat and a finger injury.
RHP Jake Arrieta (9-9, 3.57) goes for Philadelphia and LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-11, 4.35) starts for the Nationals in the series finale Wednesday. The Phillies are 12-13 in Arrieta’s starts. He’s 1-2, 4.89 in 11 starts vs. Washington. Gonzalez is 11-7, 2.69 in 25 starts vs. Philadelphia.
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