WASHINGTON -- There was Domonic Brown, written into Ryne Sandberg's lineup for the first time in September, smashing a double to left in the second inning. He scored three batters later, and that represented happiness Sunday for these Phillies in another forgettable day.
The Phillies, 11-2 losers to Washington, search for another silver lining in the form of a healthy Brown. They hope for a productive final 13 games to his breakout season. While Brown is sure to man one of the corner outfield spots in 2014, concerns about his durability linger.
The Nationals, who kept their faint postseason hopes alive, were victorious because Tyler Cloyd again failed. For the fourth time in their last six games, a Phillies starter could not throw five innings. Starters not named Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee have a 7.58 ERA since the all-star break.
Cloyd did not record an out in the fifth inning. He faced 21 batters and allowed hits to 10 of them. Washington's Wilson Ramos, starting at catcher for the 23rd straight game, delivered three-run scoring hits including a solo blast in the sixth. Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 26 games. Bryce Harper shined with two doubles and another outfield assist -- his third in two days.
The later innings devolved into a bullpen horror show. J.C. Ramirez, Joe Savery and Mauricio Robles served as the napalm; they permitted six runs. The seventh inning was unwatchable, save for an oblivious pigeon that traversed the infield while bad baseball happened around him. Span spooked the bird in between innings, and that generated laughter from the stands.
For those not ornithologically inclined, Brown is one reason to watch the triviality of the final two weeks. Sunday marked just his 25th start in 53 second-half games and first since Aug. 30. A concussion sidelined him in July. Soreness in his right Achilles tendon limited his action in recent weeks. Brown's second-inning double was his first extra-base hit in more than a month.
His 27 home runs still rank fourth in the National League. No Phillies player has bashed 30 home runs in a season since Ryan Howard swatted 33 in 2011. Brown, 26, could be the youngest to accomplish the feat since Pat Burrell in 2002.
Another hiatus rendered Brown's success an afterthought. On days like Sunday in years like 2013, the Phillies crave for any semblance of positivity.
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