Coming off of back-to-back series wins for the first time since late April, the Phillies (59-72) welcomed the first place Nationals (75-55) to Citizens Bank Park looking to keep their momentum going. On the hill for Philadelphia was AJ Burnett. Over his last three starts before tonight, Burnett had given up 14 earned runs in 19 innings. The Phillies had lost eight of Burnett's last nine starts over the past two months and were just 3-12 in his last 15, leading the 37-year-old veteran to ponder retirement. Tonight, AJ had to put those thoughts in the back of his mind against a powerful Nationals lineup in order to get back on track.
The Game: AJ Burnett struck out seven before the Phillies got their first run in the fourth. Ryan Howard hit a one-out double. Marlon Byrd singled, moving Howard to third, putting runners on the corners with just one down. Domonic Brown snuck a single through the middle to score Howard and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead on a solo home run off the bat of Cody Asche to lead off the fifth inning. Unfortunately, the Nats got that one back quick, courtesy of an Anthony Rendon solo home run in the sixth, cutting the lead to 2-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Ruiz added on an insurance run with a solo dinger of his own to make it a 3-1 Phillies lead.
Jake Diekman relieved AJ Burnett in the eighth and gave up a lead-off double to pinch-hitter, Kevin Frandsen. After Denard Span popped out, Marlon Byrd made a nice sliding catch to rob Anthony Rendon of a hit. Diekman then walked Jayson Werth, but got Adam LaRoche to ground out, ending the Nationals threat.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the save in the ninth and struck out the first two hitters with autority before serving up a home run to Nats catcher, Wilson Ramos, cutting the lead to one at 3-2. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single. Fortunately, Nate Schierholtz grounded out to short to end the game, giving Papelbon his 32nd save of the season.
Notable Offensive Statistics:
Impact: After allowing five or more runs in five of his last seven starts AJ Burnett dominated the Nationals for seven innings, striking out 12 and allowing just one run, a Rendon solo homer. Burnett hinted at retirement following his last rough outing, so it was definitely a good sign to see him rebound big against the NL East's first place team. He got his first win since July 11th. Meanwhile, Domonic Brown's head scratching plays continue, despite his RBI. He botched a fly ball to left in the seventh, but luckily Burnett pitched out of that trouble. In the bottom of the inning, he tried to stretch a single into a double but replay showed he came off of the bag at second base. Brown's continued sluggish play will continue to be questioned as long as he keeps starting, which at this point, looks to be for the rest of the season, whether we like it or not.
Up Next: Cole Hamels (7-6, 2.53) gets the nod for Phiadelphia in game two of the series on Tuesday night while the Nationals go with former Phillies prospect, Gio Gonzalez (6-9, 3.83).
Brandon Apter, Publishing Editor for Philliedelphia.com