WASHINGTON (AP) -- This victory should have been a walk in the
park for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Taking advantage of seven free passes offered by Washington pitchers, plus two errors, the Phillies built a four-run lead and then held on to beat the Nationals 5-4 on Monday night and end a three-game losing streak that put them last in the NL East.
"More and more, as hitters, we're having good at-bats and not swinging at a lot of bad pitches," said Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, who went 2-for-3 with a walk. "It's very important to get this win. It's a competitive division."
The Nationals have gone 2-6 since opening their first season in Washington 8-4.
"We're making some mistakes we didn't make early in the season. The walks and two errors cost us," said Joey Eischen, one of three relievers who combined to get the final 10 outs, keeping Washington in the game. "We're not losing it late. We're putting ourselves in trouble early."
Cory Lidle (1-2) went six innings, allowing three runs and eight hits, and helped himself with an RBI single.
"He took us exactly where we wanted to go," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He mixed his pitches up good."
The Phillies took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth and then let most of it slip away against a Washington team that has scored 50 of its 88 runs in the seventh or later. The Nationals pulled within 5-3 on Brian Schneider's two-run triple in the sixth. They made it a one-run game in the eighth when Jose Vidro led off with a triple after an 11-pitch at-bat and scored on Jose Guillen's
But Wagner came on with a runner on first and two outs and got Gary Bennett to fly out. In the ninth, Wagner gave up two-out singles to Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson before retiring Vidro on a fly to left for his fourth save.
"We kept battling," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "We had a shot in the ninth inning, even after two out. That makes you feel good about this ballclub. We're not going to give up, we're not going to go down, just cave in."
Nationals starter Zach Day (1-2) allowed five runs -- three earned -- and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He was hurt by some
defensive lapses and his control -- half of his 96 pitches were balls, and he issued five walks (one intentional).
"It's frustrating right now," Day said. "With what I had, I tried to keep the team in the game."
Six of the Phillies' seven hits were singles; the biggest was Placido Polanco's that drove in two runs in the sixth.
"We have a good offense and we haven't been scoring lately. It's going to come around," Lidle said.
Philadelphia scored a total of three runs in its previous three games. But in each of the three innings in which Day gave up a run, at least one Phillies batter reached by a base on balls. Philadelphia came into the game second in the NL with 79 walks.
With one out in the second, Day walked Jason Michaels, who went to third on Utley's single. Then third baseman Vinny Castilla
scooped up David Bell's roller and began what looked as if it would be a double play to end the inning. Castilla forced Utley at second, but second baseman Vidro's throw skipped past first base, allowing Michaels to score.
After Day intentionally walked Mike Lieberthal to get to Lidle, the pitcher delivered a single to make it 2-0.
"You've got to be better than that as far as pitching out there, period, because No. 1, it keeps everybody on their heels, and it keeps me getting people up in the bullpen thinking, 'I can't let the game get away, even in the first inning, second inning,'"
Robinson said. "It wears on you after a while -- giving up an RBI hit to the pitcher."
Utley's single made it 3-0 in the third after Day walked Jim Thome.
In the sixth, Day walked Utley, and Bell hit a grounder to shortstop Cristian Guzman, who dropped the ball and then threw late to first for an error. After Lieberthal flied out, Day went to a 2-0 count to Lidle before being replaced by Hector Carrasco. Lidle's sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, and Jimmy Rollins
was walked intentionally, loading the bases for Polanco, who singled for a 5-1 edge.
"When you have an out to get and you don't get it," Robinson said, "it bothers you, it hurts you."
With Phillies outfielders Pat Burrell (groin) and Kenny Lofton
(hamstring) nursing injuries, second baseman Polanco made the first outfield start of his major-league career. Using Burrell's glove, Polanco made five putouts before being replaced by Lofton in the ninth. ... Wagner is the fourth left-hander with 250 saves, joining John Franco, Randy Myers and Dave Righetti. ... Johnson went 1-for-5,
extending his career-best hitting streak to 15 games.
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