By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA-Whenever a Phillies starting pitcher has a good outing with a slim lead, the question in the back of your mind nowadays is how will the bullpen blow this one?
Against the Washington Nationals, Phils right-hander Roberto Hernandez pitched seven and one-third third innings of scoreless baseball. He threw 104 pitches and allowed just four hits with three strikeouts. He left the game in the eighth inning with one out and a man on second.
This time the bullpen came through for the Phillies (15-14) and preserved a 1-0 shutout on a cool, breezy Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 37,490 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Relievers Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo got Hernandez in the last two outs in the inning. In the ninth inning, Closer Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Nationals by striking out pinch hitter Zack Walters with a man on first. It was his ninth save of the season.
“It was situational,” Manager Ryne Sandberg said of his pitching moves in the eighth inning. “We were going with the match-ups there. Both guys were effective.”
After a shaky first inning, Hernandez settled down and kept Washington off the scoreboard even though had men reached base at various times in the contest. Throughout the game, Hernandez, who was a last minute substitute for Cole Hamels who missed his start because of illness, was in command of pitches and kept Washington hitters off- balance.
“I think (Hernandez) has gotten better as we’ve gone along as far as command and control and using his pitches and his pitch count,” Sandberg said. “He retired 12 out of his last 13 hitters, which was impressive. He got into a groove as far as establishing the strike zone and using all of his pitches.”
In the first inning, Hernandez struggled a bit. He gave up a hit and two walks while throwing 17 pitches. But he didn’t allow a run to score. For the next six and one-third innings after that, Hernandez found his mojo and kept Washington from scoring.
“I think for me it was important to keep the ball down,” Hernandez said. “I had a little bit of trouble in the first inning, but after that I kept the ball down and kept the ball in play.”
Adams and Bastardo helped Hernandez to get the win by getting the last two outs of the eighth inning. Adams had pitched in every game in the series including Friday’s eighth inning meltdown in a 5-3 loss. He said it was the kind of effort the bullpen has to do on a consistent basis.
“It all worked good. We got the ‘W’ and I think that’s what our bullpen is capable of doing there,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we can get this thing turned around and going in the right direction. Bad outings are going to happen, but at the same time you want to get out there and do it on a consistent basis.”
The Phillies jumped on the board in the first inning on Chase Utley’s run-scoring single that drove home Jimmy Rollins, who tripled. That was all they needed to win with the effort from Hernandez and the bullpen.
Winning a series from a Nationals team that’s expected to be at the top of the National League East standings gives the team a decent boost early in the season, said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere.
“The Nationals are a great team and they got great pitching bullpen and hitters,” Revere said. “Winning the first series is big because last we kinda fell behind. Winning this series is a big step up so hopefully we’ll keep at it for the rest of the season.”