GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After a fruitless night at the plate against A.J. Burnett on Monday, the Nationals knew they faced another stiff challenge Tuesday against longtime nemesis Cole Hamels. And for six innings, the Phillies lefty proved virtually unhittable, carrying a shutout on a scant 59 pitches.
Gio Gonzalez wasn't as effective — he allowed three runs on a pair of homers — but the left-hander did give the Nationals a chance to get something going at the plate. Which they finally did in the seventh. A prolonged rally brought home a pair of runs, then Asdrubal Cabrera's leadoff homer in the eighth tied the game and knocked out Hamels at last.
The Phillies, though, got the run right back in controversial fashion in the bottom of the eighth. Ben Revere initially was ruled out on a close play at first base, but Ryan Sandberg successfully got the call overturned, with umpires in New York convinced Ian Desmond's high throw pulled fill-in first baseman Kevin Frandsen's foot off the bag. That proved costly, because Revere proceeded to steal second base off Tyler Clippard, then advanced twice on flyballs to give the Phillies the lead again.
Jonathan Papelbon then closed it out in the ninth, dealing the Nationals back-to-back losses for the first time since August 5.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: How good has Cabrera been for the Nationals since his acquisition on July 31? The overall stats don't blow you away, but Cabrera seems to deliver at least one big play in a key spot every time he plays, whether at the plate or in the field. He did it again tonight, homering off Hamels to tie this game in the eighth. If there was any concern about his strained right side after a swing on Sunday, he has put that to rest with a big pinch-hit Monday night and now a homer tonight.
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PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Gonzalez actually pitched quite well for most of the night. He located his fastball, pumped out some nice curveballs and was very efficient, needing only 43 pitches to complete his first four innings. But he was done in by a trip of poorly located pitches, each proving costly. He hung a curveball to Grady Sizemore, who belted a triple to deep right-center to lead off the fifth. Then he left a fastball up to Freddy Galvis, who crushed it to left for a 2-run homer and the first runs of the evening. One inning later, Gonzalez left a fastball over the plate to Darin Ruf, who also found the bleachers. Three pitches leading directly to three runs. This wasn't by any stretch a poor start for Gio, but he needed to be sharper when it really mattered.
KEY STAT: The Nationals have given Gio Gonzalez a total of four runs of support over his last 39 1/3 innings pitched.
UP NEXT: The series concludes at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday — note the pushed-back start time due to a pregame ceremony honoring Mo'ne Davis and the Taney Little League team that just played in the World Series in Williamsport — when Doug Fister takes the mound against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick.