- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | The Philadelphia Phillies will go into October with a legitimate shot at repeating as World Series champions because they do almost everything well. They get good starting pitching. They crush the ball around the park. They play solid defense. They run the bases well.

The Washington Nationals don’t consistently do any of those things well. Is it any wonder, then, that the Phillies are primed for another postseason run while the Nationals are primed for another long offseason contemplating everything that’s gone wrong?

It was all there on display Wednesday for 44,223 to see. Philadelphia cruised to a 6-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park, nearly shutting out Washington for the second straight night and outperforming its division rivals in every possible manner.

Better pitching? Check. Better clutch hitting? Double check. Better baserunning? By a light year.

There were no silver linings for the Nationals (50-95), who have almost forgotten this week what it feels like to cross the plate. Until they produced a ninth-inning run Wednesday with the game out of hand, they were riding a 21-inning scoreless drought.

About the only positive that could be gleaned from this one was another solid pitching performance from Livan Hernandez, albeit in a losing effort.

Hernandez was in top form all night. Though he allowed a first-inning run, it wasn’t entirely his fault. With runners on the corners and two outs, Ryan Howard took off from first. Catcher Wil Nieves pumped before finally throwing to second base, and Cristian Guzman’s tag was late. All the while, Chase Utley was racing home, scoring without so much as a throw from Guzman.

Hernandez, though, shook off that early blunder and proceeded to cruise through the Phillies’ vaunted lineup. He allowed only one other run in the next five innings and departed having done his part to earn a win.

The Nationals, though, were unable to score against starter Joe Blanton despite multiple opportunities. They put a man in scoring position in three of the first four innings yet had nothing to show for it, in part because of some flawed fundamentals that led to senseless outs.

With runners on the corners and one out in the second, Hernandez came up to bat. Long considered one of the best-hitting pitchers in the sport, he dropped a bunt in front of the plate. Ian Desmond got caught in no-man’s land off third base and was gunned down trying to dive back, a golden opportunity wasted.

As he retreated to the dugout, Desmond glanced back at third base coach Pat Listach as if to ask if he missed a sign or something. Turns out the rookie did not. Hernandez bunted on his own, hanging his young teammate out to dry.

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