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Another blown save costs Nationals first game of double-header against Phillies

Another blown save costs Nationals first game of double-header against Phillies

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After the Nationals' latest blown save, Washington manager Dusty Baker said he's open to a move to bolster his faltering bullpen.

He also knows he might have to wait a while.

Shawn Kelley struggled Sunday before Koda Glover allowed Ty Kelly's tiebreaking RBI single in Philadelphia's three-run ninth inning, sending the Nationals to a 4-3 loss to the Phillies in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

"You're always pushing for a trade, but there ain't nobody trading right now," Baker said after his team suffered a third blown save in six games. "Sometimes you have no choice but to have patience. Nobody's going to drop you down a knockdown closer out of the sky until there's some teams out of it."

Aaron Altherr opened the ninth with his eighth homer. Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp hit consecutive doubles off Kelley, and Freddy Galvis walked before Kelly's clutch swing lifted Philadelphia to its third win in 14 games.

"We've been in a hole, trying to climb out," Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said.

The Phillies also came back from three runs down to win in the teams' series finale last weekend in Philadelphia.

"That's how it's been against these guys all year," Altherr said of the Nationals relievers, who entered Sunday with a combined NL-worst 5.18 ERA. "We know their bullpen has been struggling a little bit. Never give up, never quit, keep fighting."

Kelley (3-1) blew his second save in five opportunities. The right-hander was activated from the disabled list Friday after being sidelined with a back strain and got the win with a scoreless inning in Saturday's 6-4 victory.

"I wasn't 100 percent," Kelley said of the quick turnaround. "But we don't always pitch 100 percent every time out. The bottom line is, in that situation, I want the ball there. And I've got to do my job, and I didn't."

Joaquin Benoit (1-2) pitched a scoreless eighth for Philadelphia, and Hector Neris finished for his fourth save.

Bryce Harper hit his 12th homer for NL East-leading Washington, and Trea Turner added a two-run shot.

Gio Gonzalez allowed one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings, but saw a late lead disappear with the bullpen for the second time this season.

"This is just, `Turn the page, hey it happens, it's part of baseball,'" Gonzalez said of Kelley. "I know for a fact that he put his heart out there and he tried his best, you know."

Tommy Joseph hit an opposite-field homer off Gonzalez in the seventh, setting up Philadelphia's late rally.

TRAINERS ROOM

Phillies: INF Howie Kendrick (abdominal strain) is about to begin swinging the bat and will have at least one rehab game before returning, Mackanin said.

Nationals: LF Jayson Werth was out of the lineup for both games after leaving Saturday night's game because of groin tightness.

HOMER HAPPY

Harper has homered five times in eight games against the Phillies, even after missing an entire series with a groin injury.

SO IT'S BEEN A WHILE

Hellickson's fourth start against Washington in the season's 34th game is the earliest a Phillies starter has seen a team that many times since Jumbo Elliott faced the Brooklyn Dodgers for a fourth time in the 32nd game of the 1931 season.

UP NEXT

Phillies: Game 2 right-handed starter Vince Velazquez has a 6.88 ERA in six career starts vs. Washington, including an 8.18 ERA in two starts this season.

Nationals: Righty ace Max Scherzer aims for his 53rd career double-digit strikeout game -- and third straight -- to pass the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw for the most among active players.

MORE NATIONALS: Bryce Harper said he wants to be like John Wall

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Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

965 days. That's the amount of time that separated the second time Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland faced each other on an MLB diamond and the third one.

In that second matchup, which came back in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, Harper launched a game-tying home run in the seventh inning off of Strickland. Harper also hit a blast off Strickland in Game 1 of the same series.

Well, apparently, the Giants reliever still hasn't gotten over his last time he saw the Nationals star, because on Monday, the right-hander plunked the MVP candidate with a fastball the first chance he had since their postseason encounters almost three years ago.

Ironically enough, after San Francisco beat Washington in the NLDS, Strickland told the SF Chronicle how he would have to "have a short memory" on the mound for the rest of the playoffs and keep his composure after the home runs. Judging by this video, however, it's clear that Strickland's had some issues moving on:

RELATED: MORE ON THE HARPER VS. STRICKLAND BRAWL

When you look back at that Game 4 meeting, you'll see Harper pause at home plate and watch his moonshot after sending it into the McCovey Cove, then glare at Strickland a few times as he rounds the bases. Some will call what No. 34 did a violation of baseball's unwritten rules, but it was a huge moment on a huge stage, which contributed to Harper's emotional reaction.

The fact of the matter is that plenty of pitchers have moved on from much more egregious things in much shorter time frames, but for whatever reason, Strickland just wasn't able to.

Afterward, Harper explained why he thinks the hit by pitch should've never happened.

But Ryan Zimmerman had the best quote of all when talking about the sequence:

The veteran is right on with that statement. Harper was better than Strickland back in 2014, so Strickland felt the need to tag Harper first before Harper had a chance to tag him again on Monday. Essentially, the pitcher followed the, "If you can't beat him, bean him" strategy.

965 days is a long time to get over a grudge. For Hunter Strickland, though, 965 days still wasn't enough.

MORE: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU CAN EAT IN 2017

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Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

In their two previous meetings, Bryce Harper took Hunter Strickland deep. Very deep, in fact.

So in their third encounter, Strickland made sure that Harper wouldn't have the chance to do it again. 

RELATED: HERE'S THE HISTORY BETWEEN BRYCE HARPER AND HUNTER STRICKLAND

In the top of the eighth inning of Monday's Nationals-Giants game, the San Francisco reliever went after Washington's best player on the first pitch and hit him in the thigh with a 98 MPH fastball.

Harper — without hesitation — responded by charging the mound and throwing his helmet at Strickland, and the two then squared off and exchanged punches.

Here is the wild video of the whole sequence:

Harper and Strickland were, of course, ejected after initiating one of the best MLB fights in recent memory. This was the pair's first time facing each other since Harper's two home runs in the 2014 NLDS, meaning Strickland's had a long time to get over No. 34's blasts but simply couldn't do it.

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