WASHINGTON -- Breathe, Phillies.
The Phils beat the Nationals, 5-1, in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader at Nationals Park, snapping a five-game losing streak and reducing their postseason magic number to five with six games to play. Game 2 was postponed because of rain and rescheduled for a split doubleheader Saturday. Philadelphia is a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the third National League Wild Card spot, but the Phillies own a tiebreaker over the Brewers because they won the season series, 4-2. Milwaukee must finish with a better record to bounce Philadelphia from the postseason.
The Phillies remain in a strong position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, even if it hasn’t felt like it lately. They entered Friday having lost 10 of their past 13 games, including a sweep at the hands of the Cubs this week at Wrigley Field. Pressure was mounting. Reminders of previous September collapses were everywhere.
It’s never good when 1964 -- the year the Phillies blew a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games remaining -- is coming up in conversations.
But then Rhys Hoskins smashed a solo home run to right-center field in the first inning to give the Phils a 1-0 lead. It was Hoskins’ 30th homer of the season and the club’s first since Kyle Schwarber went yard in the third inning Sunday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
“Just a first-inning run is going to go a long way for us,” Hoskins said. “I think everybody got to take a little bit of a deep breath. Know that we can still score runs. Chicago was not good, plain and simple, right? But we know that we’re still in it. We still have a chance as long as we just continue to focus on what we have in front of us.”
Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter struck out six in six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and two walks. He is 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA in eight starts since Aug. 20.
He stopped two three-game losing streaks and one five-game skid in that stretch.
“It’s awesome,” Falter said. “Especially after my … poor performance last outing.”
Falter allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Braves.
“It felt really good to go out there and give the team a chance to win,” Falter said. “The boys earned it. I’m just happy I delivered for them.”
One victory can change a team’s outlook. And this team needed a fresh outlook. A few players spoke up after the Cubs series. They talked about forgetting and moving forward, focusing on the games ahead.
“I think it wore on us,” Hoskins said about the sweep in Chicago. “We’re competitive. We care. We care probably too much, at times. But in this game, you can’t dwell on it too long. We have to flush it. We’re a game up. We continue to win games, we’re going to be where we want to be. Because of that, I think you have to flush it.”
Then the team flew to Washington, D.C., for a four-game series. The flight landed and the team boarded buses at the airport. Players huddled around a few smartphones to catch the end of Thursday’s Brewers-Marlins game in Milwaukee.
The Brewers held a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning when the Marlins’ Avisaíl García hit a two-strike, two-out grand slam, and Miami held on to win it, 4-2.
“That was pretty cool to watch,” Hoskins said. “Big Avisaíl García fan after last night.”