WASHINGTON -- With two outs in the eighth inning on Sunday night, Seranthony Dominguez wanted to face 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto. There were Nationals on second and third base, and if Dominguez retired Soto, the Phillies would've entered the final inning with a one-run lead.However, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called
WASHINGTON -- With two outs in the eighth inning on Sunday night, Seranthony Dominguez wanted to face 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto. There were Nationals on second and third base, and if Dominguez retired Soto, the Phillies would've entered the final inning with a one-run lead.
However, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called for an intentional walk of Soto, who's hitting .324, so Dominguez would face Daniel Murphy with the bases loaded. Murphy is a three-time All-Star and was runner-up for the National League batting title the past two seasons, but he hasn't been at his best since making his season debut on June 12 following right knee surgery, so Kapler preferred that matchup.
The move didn't work, as Murphy hit a two-run single to give Washington its first lead. It was the climax of the Phillies' bullpen struggles on Sunday night, as Philadelphia allowed six runs over the final three innings to drop the series finale, 8-6, at Nationals Park.
Despite the loss, the Phillies won their fourth consecutive series and still sit in second place in the National League East, trailing the Braves by 2 1/2 games, and in the lead for the second NL Wild Card spot.
"There's a number of things that were difficult about tonight's game," Kapler said. "We're going to go back understanding that we just took two out of three games from the Nationals, and that's going to be the most important thing."
The Phillies' offense stayed hot, finishing the series with six home runs.
Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run homer in the second inning to open the scoring, tying the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt for the most go-ahead homers in the National League (10).
After the Nationals tied the score at 2 before a 38-minute rain delay in the fourth inning, Odubel Herrera, who has seven multihit efforts in his past 10 games, laced a tiebreaking two-run triple down the right-field line in the fifth, and Nick Williams drove him in with his ninth home run of the season.
Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta also contributed, allowing two runs and striking out seven batters over five innings against the organization that traded him for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015. The right-hander returned to the two-on, no-out jam that was paused by the rain and struck out three straight batters. He turned a 6-2 lead over to the bullpen in the sixth.
But Edubray Ramos allowed two runs and recorded two outs in the sixth. So the Phillies tried Austin Davis. The 25-year-old permitted a run before getting the final out.
Tommy Hunter got out of a jam by getting an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners in the seventh inning, but Philadelphia's momentum was short-lived.
Victor Arano walked the leadoff batter in the eighth inning, then got Trea Turner to pop out. Kapler replaced Arano with Dominguez to face Bryce Harper, who doubled to put runners on second and third. Anthony Rendon, who's hitting .447 over his past 10 games, grounded out, but Murphy got the best of Dominguez two batters later.
"I tried to throw quality pitches," Dominguez said through a translator. "I know I missed a couple. We battled, and he won the battle."
Kapler is optimistic his bullpen will improve, with Luis Garcia and Pat Neshek close to returning from the disabled list.
"We have the arms," Kapler said. "We have the athletes. We have the horses. Everybody needs to take a small step forward and continue to develop."
FRANCO INJURED SLIPPING ON BASE
In the eighth inning, Maikel Franco slipped on the first-base bag legging out an infield single, his left knee buckled and he fell during a play that was similar to how Harper was injured last season. Franco remained on the ground for about a minute while trainers checked on him before he slowly stood up. The 25-year-old remained in the game to run the bases, but Mitch Walding replaced him at third base in the bottom of the eighth inning. More >
Franco said he's dealing with lower back tightness but might be able to play on Monday against the Yankees.
"That was scary," Franco said.
This was the Phillies' first time on Sunday Night Baseball since Aug. 4, 2013, when they played the Braves at Citizens Banks Park.
The Phillies will return to Citizens Bank Park on Monday for a 7:05 p.m. ET opener of a three-game series against the Yankees. Vince Velasquez will try to continue his recent hot stretch. The right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Rockies on June 14, then struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on Tuesday. The 26-year-old's lone start against the Yankees came in June 2015, when he was with the Astros. Jonathan Loaisiga gets the ball for New York, making his third career start.
Kyle Melnick is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.