PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers' vexing division clinching was deferred until Friday at the earliest with another bullpen loss to the last-place Phillies on Wednesday night, 7-5, extending the latest losing streak to four while the Nationals pulled to within 3 1/2 games of Los Angeles for home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs.
A throwing error by reliever Luis Avilan in the bottom of the eighth led to a tiebreaking two-run single by Aaron Altherr off Brandon Morrow. Odubel Herrera made a leaping catch at the wall in center field to rob Yasiel Puig of an extra-base hit in the ninth to end the game, a play that was confirmed after a crew-chief review. Puig's well-struck ball had a hit probability of 78 percent, according to Statcast™.
"From the moment it came off the bat, I measured it and I knew I could get it," Herrera said through an interpreter. "I just tracked it all the way and it worked. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I know I can jump."
With the magic number for a fifth consecutive NL West title still 2 and the Dodgers having lost 20 of 25, Arizona defeated San Diego, 13-7, on Wednesday night. The Dodgers play the series finale on Thursday in Philadelphia, while Arizona is off.
"It seems we're so close to that finish line as far as clinching," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "Tonight, the energy was good, we took good swings, just missed a couple homers. We did a lot of things well tonight."
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead against Dodgers starter Alex Wood in the second inning, but the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead with a three-run top of the seventh triggered by former Phillie Chase Utley's pinch-hit triple and Cody Bellinger's two-run double (90 RBIs, most for a Dodgers rookie since Mike Piazza's 112 in 1993).
Dodgers reliever Thomas Stripling allowed three runs in the bottom of the seventh on homers by Altherr and Tommy Joseph, who had doubled home a run earlier. But the Dodgers tied it at 5 in the eighth on a walk, a wild pitch, a passed ball and an RBI fielder's-choice grounder by Utley.
• Joseph capitalizes on chance with big game
The Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break and have won eight of their past 11 games. Altherr is a big reason why the Phillies could sweep the Dodgers with a victory in Thursday's finale of the four-game series. He is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with three homers and nine RBIs in the series.
"I'm just seeing the ball really well right now. I've got my timing back," said Altherr, who missed most of August and early September because of a right hamstring injury. "I think I was locked in before [the grand slam Monday against Clayton Kershaw] … but the grand slam definitely helps for sure."
Wood struck out six in six innings, allowing three hits without a walk. He retired the last 13 batters he faced.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ball control: A leadoff walk to the speedy Cesar Hernandez brought about a sacrifice bunt from Freddy Galvis with no outs. Instead of taking the easy out at first, Avilan fired wildly to second, his throw skipping into the outfield grass as both runners advanced. An intentional walk followed a strikeout of Herrera to load the bases and set up Altherr's single past the outstretched glove of Puig in right.
Rough tryout: One night after setup man Pedro Baez dealt his postseason chances a setback with a four-run implosion, Stripling might have pitched himself off the playoff roster in the seventh by allowing three runs on homers by Altherr and Joseph. And for the third night in a row, a key Phillies walk led to a game-altering extra-base hit. On Wednesday it was Rhys Hoskins working a leadoff walk due to Stripling's inability to find the zone with his fastball, coming home on Altherr's game-tying blast to left. More >
"We were having some fun in 2012, but then we started to lose. Since then the team has been down. Now, it's a different team. We have a lot of young guys coming to the field, wanting to play, wanting to win. It's pretty cool. It's a lot of fun." -- Galvis, who is the longest tenured player on the Phillies' roster
"We're grinding right now, we're really grinding. Tomorrow's going to be a big day for us. Clinch tomorrow or Friday at home and get ready to rock for October." -- Wood, on the difficulty of clinching
Postgame X-rays on the lower right leg of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager were negative, but Seager said his availability to play on Thursday would depend on the amount of swelling that follows. Seager fouled a pitch off the area just below a protective shin guard in a third-inning at-bat, but remained in the game. He went 0-for-5.
The Dodgers also had a scare in the second inning when Bellinger slipped rounding second base and slightly rolled the right ankle that had sidelined him for 10 days at the end of August. But Roberts said Bellinger felt well enough to continue and play the entire game.
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Hoskins has walked 31 times in 40 career games. The Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Phillies player to walk at least 30 times in his first 40 career games since Heinie Sand walked 32 times in 1923. Hoskins is the first big leaguer to do it since Carlos Santana walked 34 times in 2010.
Dodgers: For the 10:05 a.m. PT Thursday finale, Kenta Maeda makes his first start in 10 days. Against the Phillies on April 28, he struck out eight and allowed two runs in seven innings of a 5-3 victory. He's 3-0 against the Phillies.
Phillies: Right-hander Mark Leiter pitches against the Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park. Leiter had a 3.88 ERA through the end of August, but he has a 9.39 ERA (16 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings) in three starts this month.
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