Close play in 9th looms large for Phillies

Hernandez, Joseph unable to retire Harper on infield grounder

Close play in 9th looms large for Phillies

WASHINGTON -- When Jeanmar Gomez got Bryce Harper to ground weakly to the right side with one out in the ninth, it appeared the Phillies had cleared their biggest hurdle en route to a victory.

But Cesar Hernandez's throw was high, Tommy Joseph's foot landed in the wrong place, and Harper beat out a controversial infield hit. The Nationals then scored two runs for a walk-off win, 5-4.

Harper's hit drew Hernandez to his left, and though the second baseman gathered the ball without difficulty, his throw sailed slightly high. Joseph jumped for the ball and came down beside first base, then, fearing he wasn't making contact with the bag, stuck his foot backward. He missed the bag with that lunge, and Harper was called safe. The Phillies challenged the call, but a replay review upheld it.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin speculated that Joseph's second effort might have cost the Phillies.

"I believe, from what I saw on the replays, if he didn't go back with his foot, I believe they would've called [Harper] out," Mackanin said. "If the side of his foot was touching the base, he was definitely out, but he went back, it's like when a guy tags a guy but then goes back to tag him even though he tagged him the first time, it looks like he didn't."

Joseph drew a different conclusion from watching the same replay on the center-field video board.

"I think they got the call right," the first baseman said. "I wasn't sure. It was too close. I couldn't feel it. Obviously if I couldn't feel it, that's why I went back."

Danny Espinosa followed with a single, and after a Ben Revere lineout, Gomez walked Clint Robinson to load the bases. That brought up Werth, who poked a 2-2 fastball up the middle for a walk-off single.

Werth's two-run walk-off single

The rally might not have occurred if Hernandez and Joseph could have converted Harper's grounder. Joseph is relatively inexperienced at first base, having begun playing there regularly last season after spending most of his Minor League career behind the plate. Of course, the play would have been difficult for any first baseman, given the high throw. Harper was credited with a hit on the play, but it could have been ruled an E-4.

"Cesar, I'm sure, feels worse than anybody here," Mackanin said. "It's a shame, but we can't afford to make mistakes. We've got to make clean plays to win."

Alex Putterman is a reporter for based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.