Phillies win but can't spoil Nationals' fun

Phillies win but can't spoil Nationals' fun

Phillies win but can't spoil Nationals' fun
WASHINGTON -- Manager Charlie Manuel said on Monday afternoon that it would make him angry to see the Nationals celebrate their first National League East championship in front of him.

He confirmed his fury a few hours later.

"Yeah, it made me mad," Manuel said following the Phils' 2-0 victory at Nationals Park. "Very much so. I'm a bad loser. Nobody should be a good loser. I'm a bad loser, and I always will be."

The Nationals clinched the championship when the Pirates beat the Braves, so in a bizarre scene, they could not immediately celebrate on the field, because the Phillies won, and the field is where the members of the winning team congratulate one another and shake hands.

"That was the first time we won and got beat," Manuel said.

"Not letting them celebrate on the field was kind of nice," Kyle Kendrick said.

But it was a very small consolation prize for the Phillies, who would much rather be heading to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. Instead, they will return to Philadelphia following Wednesday's season finale and clean out their lockers at Citizens Bank Park before scattering for the winter.

The Phillies had been on the other side of the celebration with Washington in the past. They clinched the NL East championship at Citizens Bank Park in 2007, when Brett Myers struck out Nationals left fielder Wily Mo Pena on the final day of the season. They clinched another title in 2008, when Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman bounced into a memorable Rollins-to-Utley-to-Howard double play. They clinched yet again at Nationals Park in 2010, when Roy Halladay threw a shutout in an 8-0 victory.

The Nationals had the opportunity to return the favor on Monday, except Kendrick pitched masterfully in his final start of the season. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four in seven scoreless innings to finish the season with an 11-12 record and a 3.90 ERA.

After allowing seven runs in three innings in his first start of the season, on April 23 in Arizona, Kendrick had a 3.53 ERA in his remaining 24 starts.

"When I look at our team, yeah," said Manuel, when asked if he sees Kendrick in his rotation next season. "Definitely. He's in our rotation. Unless we get [David] Price or some other guy."

Kendrick kept the ball low in the strike zone, which had the Nationals beating the ball into the ground. In all, Kendrick induced 13 groundouts. He pitched out of jams in the second and fifth innings, making the Nationals look far less formidable than they did at Citizens Bank Park last Wednesday, when they scored five runs in two innings against him.

Kendrick worked out of another jam in the sixth, when Bryce Harper hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a flyout in foul territory. But Kendrick got Adam LaRoche to pop out in the infield and struck out Michael Morse to end the inning.

The Phillies got all the runs they'd need in the second inning, when Carlos Ruiz walked, Domonic Brown singled and Darin Ruf ripped a triple to left-center to clear the bases.

But games are now pretty inconsequential, other than individual performances. Kendrick pitched great, Ruf continues to hit baseballs hard, and Justin De Fratus and Jeremy Horst pitched in a tight situation in the eighth inning and delivered.

"Personally, it's been a pretty good year for me," Kendrick said. "Team-wise, we don't want to be here. We want to be in a better position. Hopefully, we come out next spring and get ready to go and do something better next year."

That is the hope.

But reality smacked the Phillies in the face on Monday, when the Nationals dethroned them. The Phillies only guaranteed that they will not finish the season with a losing record, with Monday's victory bringing them to 81-79.

One victory in their final two games and they will finish with a winning record. That would no small accomplishment, considering they were 14 games under .500 on July 13.

It would be something to hang their hat on, right?

"The only thing we can hang our hat on is to come out next year and win," Manuel said.

A bad loser to the end. Manuel would have it no other way.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.