WASHINGTON -- The Nationals began their longest homestand of the year Thursday on the verge of securing their fourth National League East title in the past six seasons. They continued to roll toward that goal with a 4-3 victory at Nationals Park in their first matchup with the Phillies since May.
Washington rallied for three runs in the sixth inning, punctuated by a two-run single from shortstop Trea Turner, to back a solid outing from Tanner Roark, who gave up three runs in six innings. The win, coupled with a 6-5 walk-off victory by the Braves over the Marlins in Atlanta, decreased the Nats' magic number to four.
"That number keeps shrinking and that's a good thing," Turner said. "You want it to go to zero as fast as it can."
Even though the Phillies have struggled through a difficult season, right-hander Aaron Nola has been a bright spot. He rebounded from a recent snag of allowing at least five runs in three of his last four starts to give up three runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
"He's making a great impression," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about Alfaro, who is going to start playing more frequently. "As I always say, everybody is auditioning all the time and he's having a very good audition."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Turner gives Nats the lead: The Nationals took the lead in the sixth inning, secured with a key hit from Turner against a lefty. Matt Wieters doubled home a run, Howie Kendrick worked an eight-pitch at-bat for a walk and Rafael Bautista singled off the bench to load the bases for Turner against left-hander Adam Morgan. Turner entered the game batting .192/.244/.260 against left-handers, but he came through with the key hit to pave the way for Washington's victory.
"When you come back, you want to come all the way back or else invariably, a lot of times you end up losing that game," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We got some big hits tonight."
Another defensive gem from Taylor:Michael A. Taylor robbed Andres Blanco of at least extra bases and possibly a game-tying home run in the seventh inning. Blanco's drive 397 feet into center field off right-hander Brandon Kintzler had a 61 percent hit probability and was rated as a barreled ball by Statcast™. However, Taylor tracked it down at the wall and made a leaping catch. He admitted after the game he thought he had a little room left before the ball went over the fence.
"That was a tremendous play," Baker said. "You're used to seeing Michael do things like that in center field."
"They were fouling pitches off, making me work a little harder. Got the leadoff guy on a couple innings, more stress. Had to battle through a little more in a couple of those innings." -- Nola, on the Nationals making him throw 106 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings
Joseph's towering home run in the fourth inning against Roark had a launch angle of 47 degrees, which ties Mike Napoli (July 1) and Paul Goldschmidt (May 4, also at Nationals Park) for the highest home runs of the season.
"That thing was higher than it was far," Mackanin said.
The Nationals lost a challenge in the fifth inning when Turner hit a ball in the hole between third and short. The ball appeared to deflect off Phillies third baseman J.P. Crawford's glove, but shortstop Freddy Galvis made a nice catch moving to his right and threw out Turner almost from his knees. Replay confirmed the ball was in the pocket of first baseman Joseph's glove before Turner touched the bag.
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: Right-hander Jake Thompson (1-1, 4.50 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season Friday night against the Nationals at Nationals Park. Maikel Franco is expected to return to the starting lineup after sitting on the bench the previous three games as rookie Crawford played third base. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Nationals:Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Nationals on Friday night. His last start was cut short after five innings when his left calf began tightening up on him after being struck with a comebacker in the first inning against the Brewers.