Phillies pull out an impressive win over Nats, reach midpoint on high note


Phillies win a tight one over the Nationals
The Phillies reached the midpoint of the season on Saturday and capped off the first half with an impressive win over the division rival Nationals in front of a sold-out crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies lost 96 games a year ago, now they find themselves after Saturday's 3-2 win as a wild-card team if the postseason were to begin today. It's a turnaround to be happy about, for sure.

Things, however, didn't look great early on Saturday night as starter Vince Velasquez exited after the second inning after taking an Adam Eaton line drive off his right forearm. The right-hander astoundingly took the 96-mph liner off his forearm, dropped his glove to the ground to pick up the ball, and fired a seed left-handed to throw Eaton out at first. It's arguably the best play of the Phillies' first half.

"Instinctively, I just had intentions of trying to make a throw," Velasquez told reporters (see video below). "I didn't know where the ball was going to go. I just hoped I could get the ball and finish the play. Getting that out was huge and I actually surprised myself throwing a strike right there."



The Phillies were forced now to rely on the bullpen, and the crew delivered with Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Yacksel Rios, and Adam Morgan combining to toss six innings while surrendering one run. Seranthony Dominguez pitched the ninth, securing his seventh save of the season.

Jesmuel Valentin started a two-out rally for the Phillies in the fourth with a double to center. He came across the plate moments later as Jorge Alfaro ripped a liner to left for a double. Aaron Altherr followed with the third consecutive two-base hit of the inning, scoring Alfaro to give the Phillies a 3-1 advantage.

Anthony Rendon homered in the sixth off Hunter to bring the Nats to within a run, but that's as close as they would come.

The win puts the Phillies on pace to win 88 games, a mark last surpassed in 2011 when the club won the division and reached the postseason. It's more than a wish now for Kapler and Co., postseason baseball is a legitimate possibility.

The Phillies and Nationals conclude their four-game set on Sunday with Jake Arrieta facing lefty Gio Gonzalez. For Arrieta, it's a chance to improve on a forgettable June as he's carrying a 6.66 ERA for the month over 25 1/3 innings.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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