Phillies clinch NL East title with 8-0 win over Nationals
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 12:01 AM
Monday night at Nationals Park belonged to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals rendered props on their own home field. Visiting fans packed the seats not left vacant. Roy Halladay faced 28 batters in nine innings, yielded two base runners and allowed seven balls out of the infield. The Phillies retreated to their clubhouse, expectant plastic sheets hanging from their lockers to block the celebratory champagne.
From their chanting supporters to their masterful starting pitcher to their postgame party, the Phillies overwhelmed the Nationals every which way during their 8-0 victory before 14,309. Halladay came within two singles of a perfect game, Jayson Werth drove in four runs and the Phillies clinched the National League East for the fourth straight season. It seems unlikely any point of their supremacy as the NL's best team felt as dominant as Monday.
They guaranteed their spot in the postseason for the third time in four years against the Nationals, on whose backs they've built their reign. The Phillies improved to 11-5 against the Nationals this season and to 50-20 since the start of 2007. In the top of the ninth, as the Phillies clobbered reliever Joe Bisenius, the raucous Phillies fans, who made up at least 75 percent of the crowd, chanted "This Is Our House."
"Kind of embarrassing," rookie shortstop Ian Desmond said, "when everyone in the stadium is clapping against you when you're at home."
The Phillies mashed 11 hits, seven off starter John Lannan, who yielded four runs in 52/3 innings. Their outburst served to make the Nationals' seem even punier than it was. In rainy conditions, Halladay nearly threw his second perfect game in four months. Wilson Ramos ripped a single to right field in the third. Adam Dunn shot a single up the middle in the eighth. Neither reached second base.
"We ran into a buzzsaw tonight," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "Tonight was right there with as good as any of them."
All game, the Nationals were reminded of their place in baseball universe compared with the Phillies. On opening day, when the Phillies beat the Nationals, 11-1, roughly 20,000 Phillies fans packed Nationals Park. The crowd Monday was far smaller, but the percentage was much greater. Phillies fans started chants for their manager and their players, and even a derisive chant directed at center fielder Nyjer Morgan. "It was a lot louder at our place than it was at their place when we go there," Morgan said. "It felt like it was a home game for the Phillies."
Said Riggleman: "They've got a special thing going. They play great baseball. They're prepared. They pitch. They work hard. They're professional. For years, to win the division you had to go through Atlanta. Now you have to go through Philadelphia."
Lannan knows the feeling as well as any National. The skeletal details from Lannan's first day this season resurfaced on his last. On Monday night, for his final start of 2010 and on his 26th birtday, Lannan faced the Phillies with Halladay opposing him at Nationals Park, the place infested with Phillies fans. Only President Obama's ceremonial first pitch was missing.
So much had changed for Lannan since opening day, but his latest outing against the Phillies, his nemesis, brought only minimal progress. Lannan started strong and recovered from Werth's home run to lead off the second. He faced the minimum for 12 batters after Raul Ibanez's double followed in the second, erasing a single with a double play in the fourth and fifth.
In the sixth, though, the Phillies did what they usually do to Lannan. He walked Placido Polanco and hit Chase Utley. With two outs, Werth ripped a two-run double. Ibanez followed with an infield single. After 95 pitches, Lannan was done. Craig Stammen would yield Lannan's fourth earned run, making Lannan 0-8 with a 6.08 ERA against the Phillies in his career.
With five games remaining, Lannan will not make another start - the Nationals will once again insert Ross Detwiler into their rotation. Lannan finishes 8-8 with a 4.65 ERA, remarkable progress considering his midseason demotion to Class AA Harrisburg. Since he returned Aug. 1, Lannan has gone 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA, his 44 strikeouts against 14 walks offering promise he not only recovered, but improved.
"I like the way I bounced back," Lannan said. "Just move on and get ready for next season."
Upon the final out Monday, a Halladay strikeout of Danny Espinosa, the Phillies poured out of their dugout, engulfed Halladay on the mound and embraced one another. Their fans hollered "Phill-ies! Phill-ies!," the chants echoing loud and clear.
"You work your whole year to get to that next level," Morgan said. "The other team gives you motivation so you can try to succeed and get to that level where those guys are at. We just got to put the pieces together."