By Mary Cunningham
So, this is what happens when the upstart Phillies play one of the best teams in baseball.
Just as the MLB-best Chicago Cubs rolled over and swept the Phils last weekend, the NL East-leading Washington Nationals are doing it at Citizens Bank Park.
Daniel Murphy hit one of four Washington home runs, Joe Ross allowed three hits in seven innings and the Nationals beat the Phillies 5-1 last night for their third straight win.
NL MVP Bryce Harper missed the game, a day after he bruised his right knee when hit by a pitch.
The Phils lost their season-high fifth straight game and has scored just nine runs during the skid.
At 26-26, the Phillies are at .500 for the first time since a 10-10 start.
Murphy broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth with a two-out solo homer off Aaron Nola (4-4) and added an infield single in the eighth. He hit .416 in May (47 for 113) with seven homers and 23 RBIs, tying the franchise record for hits in a month, shared by Al Oliver (August 1982) and Marquis Grissom (June 1994) of the Montreal Expos.
He finished the month with a 10-game hitting streak.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker doesn’t think flipping the calendar to June will bother Murphy.
”I don’t think he really cares. Murph’s ready to hit June, July, August, September,” Baker said of Murphy, who homered in six straight postseason games last fall to help the Mets win the NL pennant. ”You’ve seen him in October. It doesn’t really matter as long as we keep him healthy and happy.”
Murphy deflected questions about his personal accomplishment, instead focusing on the team’s success. The Nationals finished May with 16 wins.
”That was more fun,” he said of the victories.
Asked if he’ll be sad to see May end, Murphy said, ”We can still win baseball games in June. I think that’s allowed.”
Jayson Werth (above), Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew also homered for Washington.
Ross (5-4) struck out five and walked two.
”I thought he was unbelievable tonight,” Murphy said. ”It was an absolute treat to watch.”
Felipe Rivero and Jonathan Papelbon finished the four-hitter.
Espinosa hit a two-run homer in the ninth against Colton Murray, and Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer that caromed off the wall in right-center and sharply away from outfielders.
Nola (4-4) gave up two runs and five hits in six innings and is 0-2 in six starts against the Nationals.
”That was the bright spot of the night, Nola once again pitched very well,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Nola thinks the Phillies will rebound.
”I feel like that’s who we are,” he said. ”We’re a team that’s going to go out and battle and give it everything we have.”
Werth hit a solo homer in the first, but Cesar Hernandez’s RBI triple tied the score in the third.
The Phillies began the night with a .234 batting average that ranked 24th among the 30 big league teams and had scored 163 runs, more than only Atlanta.
”We’re just getting out-homered every night,” Mackanin said. ”Once again, I feel like it’s a broken record. We’re not hitting.”