By Sam Bush
The Phils avoided ignominy last night.
Jake Thompson and four relievers combined to hold the Washington Nationals in check as the Phillies spoiled Bryce Harper’s return with a 4-1.
That means the Phils (63-95) will not lose 100 games — the last time they lost that many was 1961, when they dropped 107 of 154 games and 23 in a row!
Thompson (3-2) gave up a run over five innings, then Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris combined to strike out nine over four perfect innings. Neris got his 25th save.
“Right now, it is just get it to these guys with the lead and let it take over,” Thompson said. “It seems like they are all firing at the same time. It’s fun to watch.”
Harper played for the first time since hyperextending and bruising his left knee on Aug. 12. He was 0 for 2 with a walk before being lifted in the fifth inning. Baker hasn’t decided if Harper will play Wednesday.
“I feel fine,” Harper said after the game. “Just try and get past tonight and see what I feel like tomorrow. If I feel good, then I’ll play. If I don’t, take a day and see what I feel like the next day.”
Tommy Joseph had two hits, including a tying RBI single as part of a three-run third inning. Cameron Rupp (above) followed with a line drive that sailed over the head of outfielder Michael Taylor in center field, bouncing to the wall to bring home both Aaron Altherr and Joseph.
Rhys Hoskins added a sacrifice fly in the seventh for the Phillies.
Howie Kendrick, who was traded from the Phils to Washington on July 28, connected on his ninth homer in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Washington didn’t get a hit after the third inning, though.
Neris ended the game by striking out the side in the ninth. It was his 19th straight save, the longest streak for the club since Jonathan Papelbon converted 19 straight in 2014-15.
“Like a lot of guys, you have to learn how to relax,” Phils manager Pete Mackanin said. “The ninth inning is different than any other innings. He’s starting to get more comfortable and relaxed.”