WASHINGTON -- Cesar Hernandez lifted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off right-hander Joe Blanton to catapult the Phillies to a 4-2 victory at Nationals Park Saturday afternoon on Jackie Robinson Day.
Nats relievers have now given up 10 of the 12 home runs surrendered by their pitching staff this season. This comes on the heels of a strong day on Friday afternoon when the Nationals got three scoreless innings from their bullpen to hold a tie game -- the first time the unit did not allow a run since Opening Day.
Hernandez's homer secured a victory for Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who delivered a strong outing in his second consecutive start against the Nationals. He gave up two runs on four hits in seven strong innings with two strikeouts and a walk. The win also snapped Philadelphia's four-game losing skid.
Hellickson was matched by Nats right-hander Tanner Roark, who also allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings with three strikeouts in his best performance of the season. The Nats had a brief scare in the fifth inning when Roark got struck with a line drive off his arm, but Roark shook it off and stayed in the game.
"I feel like I'm building up each outing," said Roark, who went 2-for-2 at the plate. "Just doing what I try to do, go out there and make them feel uncomfortable at the plate."
Both teams have endured early-season bullpen struggles, but as the Nats' relievers could not keep the opposition off the board, the Phillies got a pair of scoreless frames from theirs, including a 1-2-3 ninth from Joaquin Benoit, his first save since taking over as their new closer after Jeanmar Gomez couldn't lock down a win last Sunday against the Nationals.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Hernandez puts the Phils up for good: After Hellickson allowed the game-tying home run in the seventh inning, the Phillies' offense quickly responded to recapture the lead. Hernandez's go-ahead two-run shot to right field off Blanton went an estimated 392 feet and left his bat at 99 mph, according to Statcast™.
Streak snapped:Chris Heisey's game-tying home run in the seventh inning was not only his first hit of the season, but it also broke an impressive homerless stretch by Hellickson. The 30-year-old right hander hadn't allowed a long ball in his previous seven starts, a span that was snapped after 46 1/3 innings. Prior to the homer, Hellickson had been tied with Ivan Nova for the second-longest active homerless streak in the Majors.
Meanwhile, Heisey continues to come up in big spots. This marked his sixth career game-tying home run.
"He left a changeup pretty much right down the middle," Heisey said. "He had thrown me a changeup the pitch before, and I saw it pretty well, and I kind of told myself to not necessarily sit on the changeup, but make sure I was staying back to let it get to me because I have a tendency be a little quick in there. He threw it and he made a mistake with it and left it over the middle of the plate."
JACKIE ROBINSON DAY
Saturday also marked the 70th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson shattered baseball's color barrier by playing for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Major League Baseball celebrated its annual Jackie Robinson Day where everyone on the field wore Robinson's No. 42 on their jersey.
"Every day is Jackie Robinson Day to me," Baker said. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in baseball. I wouldn't be working as a player, and I wouldn't have this job." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: Philadelphia will tap Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 1.98 ERA) in the weekend finale at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday with hopes of clinching another series win over the reigning National League East champs. Though Eickhoff has yet to earn a win in his first two outings, he has pitched into the seventh inning both times, something manager Pete Mackanin wants to see more of from a starting staff that has had trouble going deep into games.
Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.69 ERA) will try to continue his terrific start to the year when he takes the ball for Sunday's series finale. Gonzalez has given up one earned run in his first 13 innings this season, with 13 strikeouts and two walks.