Nats crush five homers, but fall to Phils
Bullpen's struggles overshadow Zimmerman's big night
PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Manny Acta's expression said it all after watching his Nationals lose to the Phillies, 13-11, at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. He had a stunned look on his face and couldn't believe his bullpen blew a four-run lead. The skipper felt having 11 runs on the scoreboard was good enough to win the game.
Not the Nationals. Not this year.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Nats had an 11-7 lead, but relievers Garrett Mock and Joel Hanrahan couldn't get the job done.
With Mock on the mound, Shane Victorino hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Pedro Feliz and make it 11-8. After Chase Utley singled in Jimmy Rollins, Hanrahan entered the game and couldn't find the strike zone. Hanrahan walked both Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth on 10 pitches. Raul Ibanez then came to the plate. Hanrahan felt he had no choice but to throw a fastball to Ibanez. Hanrahan paid the price as Ibanez hit a grand slam. It was Hanrahan's third blown save of the season.
"I hope I don't wear out this word, but, again, it was deflating," Acta said. "Our offense just battled all day and scored enough runs. We played so hard for eight innings to score enough runs. You lose the game in one inning, it just tough for the whole team."
For Hanrahan, he knew why he couldn't get anybody out on Monday. He was afraid to give up a home run at the small ballpark. It also didn't help that Hanrahan relied on his second- and third-best pitches -- the changeup and slider.
"I wasn't aggressive. I didn't attack any hitters," he said. "We had an 11-9 game where it's pretty easy to get a home run here. I tried to avoid the home run instead of throwing strikes. I messed up by walking Ryan Howard and Werth. It was just a poor performance."
The big question is, will Hanrahan remain the closer? Acta said he needed some time to think about it.
"We are going to think this through," Acta said. "We are not going to make a decision out of a reaction of tonight because we don't have Rollie Fingers and Mariano Rivera in our bullpen. We going to sit back, think it through and we are going to come up with a decision."
If one looks at Washington's 25-man roster, right-hander Julian Tavarez is probably the only one capable of closing right now. This season, Tavarez has been the team's most consistent reliever, posting s 3.12 ERA.
While they try to settle their bullpen problems, it appears the Nationals have nothing to worry about regarding their offense. They hit five home runs, tying a team record.
Early in the game, it looked like Washington was going to have an easy victory. The offense gave right-hander Shairon Martis a 6-2 lead after 4 1/2 innings. Ryan Zimmerman, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games, highlighted the scoring by hitting two home runs. Elijah Dukes also hit a monster shot over the left-center field wall.
But the Phillies came back and tied the score against Martis in the bottom of the fifth.
The bases were loaded when Howard drilled 1-2 pitch for a grand slam to tie the score at 6.
But the Nationals retook the lead in the top of the sixth. Facing reliever Clay Condrey, Dukes walked with the bases loaded, sending home Anderson Hernandez to give Washington a 7-6 lead.
Martis came back on the mound and it appeared that he nothing left in the tank. He walked Lou Marson before being taken out the game for Tavarez. Pedro Feliz hit a fly ball that went over the glove of Adam Dunn in left field for a double to put runners on second and third. The replay showed that Dunn should have caught the ball.
Rollins followed and blooped a double near the left-field line to score Marson and close Martis' record for the game.
Martis pitched five-plus innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits.
"[Martis] was pitching away from contact," Acta said. "This is a ballpark where walks and being behind in the count is not a good combination."
With game tied at 7, the Nats had a runner on first base when Nick Johnson drove a 2-0 pitch from left-hander Scott Eyre to the second deck in right field for a two-run homer.
Two batters later, Dunn clubbed a 2-2 pitch from Eyre over the right-field wall to make it an 11-7 game.
But the power didn't erase that fact that the bullpen blew the game once again.
"A lead is never save here, especially with the offense that the Phillies have, but, still, when you are winning by four runs, most of the time, you should win the ballgame," Acta said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.