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Phils sweep doubleheader against Nationals with a crazy nightcap

WASHINGTON — As soon as the third base umpire pointed to the runner, that was when Dusty Wathan knew. So, the Phillies’ veteran third base coach shouted directions that he’d never given before.

“You’re going to be out,” Wathan said, whipping around his arm as Rhys Hoskins rounded third in the 10th inning Friday night, “but don’t slow up. Don’t slow up!”

Hoskins didn’t slow up. And he would have been out — by about 30 feet, no less. But the umpires ruled that Washington Nationals shortstop Luis García made contact with Hoskins after trying to field JT Realmuto’s single up the middle. Obstruction was called, and because Hoskins made an attempt to score, the run counted.

Oh, it counted all right. It even proved decisive. Hoskins’ run gave the Phillies a two-run lead en route to an insane 8-7 victory in 10 innings. Combined with an earlier 5-3 victory, it clinched a sweep of an exhausting day-night doubleheader in the nation’s capital.

“I mean, really, props to [Wathan] for knowing exactly what the rule is, on the fly,” Hoskins said. “It ended up being the deciding run.”

Of course it did. If you’ve lost track, that’s 14 victories in 16 games for interim manager Rob Thomson’s do-no-wrong Phillies. Even when they make egregious mistakes, like when shortstop Didi Gregorius throws away what would have been the final out in the ninth inning, they overcome them.

The Phillies went through 22 players, including 10 pitchers. They forfeited the designated hitter in the nightcap, forcing reliever José Alvarado to bat for the first time in his career in the 10th inning. Thomson blew through his top three late-inning relievers in the first game and had to rely on his questionable bullpen depth in the second.

None of it mattered. The Phillies swept a doubleheader for the first time since Sept. 18, 2020, and those were seven-inning games. They clinched a fifth consecutive winning series for the first time since 2011.

“Wild,” said outfielder Matt Vierling, who homered twice in Game 2, including a solo shot in the ninth inning that gave the Phillies a 6-5 lead. “I feel like going through adversity is a good thing and overcoming some struggles or mistakes. We came out on top, and that shows a lot about our character.”

The wild and crazy second game turned so many times over the final three innings that it’s impossible to know where to begin. Let’s start in the eighth inning, with the Phillies trailing 5-3.

If Realmuto hadn’t been deemed safe on a replay review that overturned an inning-ending double play, the Phillies might have lost. If home plate umpire Clinton Vondrak hadn’t missed a ball-four call on pinch-hitting Bryce Harper one batter later, Harper doesn’t hit a game-tying two-run double.

After Vierling’s homer in the ninth, Gregorius had the final out in his hand. But he threw wide of first base, allowing the Nationals to score the tying run.

Then came Wathan’s heads-up move in the 10th.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez argued the call and got ejected, contending that it was Hoskins who actually interfered with García. Crew chief Dan Iassogna explained that the umpires must make a judgment about whether the runner would’ve scored without the contact.

“It’s just such a very difficult close play,” Iassogna said. “We felt that [Hoskins] wouldn’t have been thrown out had the obstruction not occurred.”

Said Wathan: “We go over rules in spring training, and we talk about them all the time for situations like that where it works out. There’s little rules here and there that can benefit you, and that’s one of them tonight.”

Can Wathan ever remember telling a runner to keep going despite knowing he’s going to be out?

“No, that’s a first,” he said. “But he’s safe now. It worked out well for us.”

When Harper came up as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of the nightcap, the Nationals had every intention of walking him.

But Vondrak wouldn’t allow it.

Never mind that Kyle Finnegan threw a high splitter for a fourth consecutive ball. Vondrak called it a strike. Harper dropped his bat and looked back at the home-plate umpire. And then, he lined the next pitch to right-center field for a game-tying two-run double.

“I wasn’t very happy,” said Harper, still peeved about the call. “Try to turn the page as quickly as possible. It worked out, right? It worked out.”

The tenor of the second game was set in the seventh inning of the first game.

Nationals relievers walked the bases loaded on 12 pitches — the opposite of an immaculate inning — but the Phillies came up empty when Odúbel Herrera, Alec Bohm, and Bryson Stott struck out looking.

Thomson was forced to use his top three high-leverage relievers — Connor Brogdon, Seranthony Dominguez, and Brad Hand — for the final 10 outs, leaving them unavailable for the nightcap.

After spot-starting Bailey Falter lasted five innings, Thomson had to piece together the rest of the game by tapping into the Phillies’ thin bullpen depth. Nick Nelson, demoted closer Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia, Andrew Bellatti, and Alvarado somehow got the final 15 outs.

“The guys we used in the first game, we weren’t going to use them the second,” Thomson said. “I’m totally against that. If there happens to be a doubleheader World Series game, I’d use them.”

Nick Castellanos gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the opener with a first-inning double. He doubled again on a fly ball in the third that Juan Soto appeared to lose in the sun.

It was notable, though, that both doubles went to right field. When Castellanos uses the whole field, especially when he hits the ball the other way, it’s a sign to Thomson that he may be getting hot.

“I just want to be somebody who’s consistently hitting the baseball hard. Wherever it ends up, it ends up,” said Castellanos, 15-for-43 (.349) in his last 12 games after going 1-for-5 in the nightcap. “I’ve been behind the baseball more this series.”

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