WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — After coming into the season with World Series aspirations, the Phillies fell flat. The Phils were officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 4-1 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday afternoon.
The Phillies signed superstar Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million in the offseason and looked to be set for a playoff run before their pitching imploded and the bats failed to live up to expectations.
Anthony Rendon drove in Washington’s first two runs with a pair of sacrifice flies to raise his major league-leading RBIs total to 124, and the Nationals moved closer to clinching an NL wild-card berth by winning the doubleheader opener.
Harper was booed each time he strode to the plate, then heard cheers each time he made an out while going 1 for 4.
By day’s end, Washington could be assured of returning to the playoffs for the fifth time in eight years after sitting out in 2018. To clinch, the Nationals needed a sweep of Philadelphia plus a loss by the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia took the lead with a run in the first against Joe Ross, who only lasted four innings.
It was a bullpen day for the Phillies, and Washington’s first hit didn’t come until Trea Turner led off the fourth with a double off the visitors’ third pitcher. Turner took third on a sacrifice bunt, then came home on a tying fly by Rendon.
Washington took a 2-1 lead in the sixth thanks again to a fly ball by Rendon, this one off Nick Vincent (1-4) and caught by Harper in right. Turner reached on an infield single and moved to third on Adam Eaton’s double.
Ryan Zimmerman tacked on an RBI single, making it 3-1.
Tanner Rainey (2-3) struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth, and Daniel Hudson threw a perfect ninth for his fourth save in six chances with Washington.
The day game was a makeup of a June 18 rainout. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was scheduled for start the night game for Washington and Aaron Nola for Philadelphia.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez gave his strongest indication yet that Scherzer would start Game 163 if the Nationals do, indeed, qualify for the wild-card playoff on Oct. 1.
“If you look at the schedule right now, that’s Max’s day,” Martinez said, “and he’s one of the best.”
Phillies LF Brad Miller was ejected for arguing after striking out in the sixth.
Phillies: RHP Juan Nicasio (rotator cuff tendinitis) was activated from the 10-day injured list after being out for a month.
Nationals: C Kurt Suzuki (right elbow) was not going to start either game Tuesday because Martinez wants to let him take it easy in the hopes of having him available for the playoffs. “He’s about 70-75% right now, and he’s progressing, so I’d rather not push the envelope right now and just get him ready,” Martinez said. “Hopefully by Friday or Saturday, he’ll be ready to catch.”
Washington RHP Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91 ERA) pitches against LHP Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) on Wednesday.