The Phillies mostly seem to experience misery on the road, at least these past couple of seasons.
But they caught a few breaks in Tuesday night’s 6-2 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park. First, the Phillies think J.T. Realmuto avoided a trip to the injured list when Josh Bell fouled José Alvarado’s 101.3 mph sinker off the inside of his left knee. Realmuto sustained a bruised muscle, but it could have been worse. Second, the Phillies survived a sixth-inning sequence that might have cost them a couple of runs. But following a pair of losses over the weekend in Atlanta, including three blown saves in a 12-inning loss Saturday, the Phillies felt they deserved it.
“Coming here and getting off on the right foot definitely is encouraging for our team, that when we get punched in the face, we step back up and keep going,” Phillies right-hander Chase Anderson said.
Anderson retired 15 of 16 as he finished five scoreless innings. He pitched so well that Phillies manager Joe Girardi let him hit with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth. Anderson flied out to shallow left field, Andrew McCutchen struck out and Jean Segura lined out, following a career-high 14-pitch at-bat, to end the inning.
The Phillies could live with the zero if Anderson continued to pitch like he had. But he allowed a home run to Trea Turner and walked Juan Soto to start the sixth.
His night ended there.
“I felt like I could have gone a lot longer than that if I had some better fastball command,” Anderson said. “I kind of lost that throughout the game.”
“I mean, he hadn't given up a hit since the first inning,” Girardi said. “Bases were loaded. There was nobody out. If he doesn't get a hit or do something, we still have two more chances. I liked the way he was pitching. And then, you know, they come back. He gives up a leadoff homer. Hindsight is always 20-20. But I just liked the way he was pitching.”
It created some tense moments for the Phillies. Alvarado walked Turner following a 14-pitch at-bat in the seventh. The 14th pitch sailed over Realmuto’s head and hit the backstop to put runners at the corners. Alvarado then walked Soto on four pitches to load the bases.
But Alvarado struck out Bell on four pitches to end the inning, preserving the Phillies’ one-run lead.
”The guy was wild, so in his mind, I know he’s thinking, ‘He’s got to throw a strike,’” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said about Bell’s at-bat. “He took a strike and then he went up there and started swinging the bat. [He] just couldn’t get it done.”
Andrew Knapp started to put on his catcher’s gear the moment Realmuto got hit in the knee with the 1-1 pitch to Bell. Realmuto finished the inning, but Knapp prepared to hit in the eighth, just in case. Odúbel Herrera hit a leadoff double. He is batting .368 (7-for-19) with two doubles, one home run, four RBIs and a 1.110 OPS in his last six games. Alec Bohm followed with an opposite-field double to score Herrera to make it 4-2. McCutchen walked and Bryce Harper -- who hit a long solo homer in the first against his former team -- was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out.
Knapp, pinch-hitting for Realmuto, hit an opposite-field single to score two runs and give the Phillies a nice lead.
“It’s always good to add on, especially the way things have kind of been going lately with the last couple in Atlanta,” Knapp said. “Just on the road in general, it’s hard to close out games, so the more runs you can get to kind of separate yourself, the better.”
Tuesday’s victory put the Phillies in position to win a series on the road, something they have not done (minimum three-game series) since September 2019.
“I didn’t know it was as bad as it is until someone kind of told me,” Knapp said about the Phillies’ road woes. “I know we’ve given away quite a few games in the past year on the road, but it’s hard to win on the road in general, especially in the East when you go to Atlanta and that place is hopping, you come here and there are some good lineups. But we definitely know what’s going on here. I thought we gave one away in Atlanta, but you chalk that up for what it is. There’s definitely not less effort on the road. There’s not less preparation. I thought today was huge. It’s adding on runs late in games and making sure that we kind of create that separation, so that was big.”