PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Davey Johnson had the best seat in the house when he molded a young New York Mets team in the 1980s into a World Series champion.
His Nationals aren’t Amazin’ yet.
But his young nucleus has .500 in sight and are no longer pushovers in the NL East.
Danny Espinosa(notes) and Wilson Ramos(notes) each hit two-run home runs to help the Washington Nationals beat Philadelphia 7-5 on Wednesday, sending the NL East-champion Phillies to their season-worst fifth straight loss.
Espinosa’s two-run shot in the sixth off Vance Worley(notes) (11-3) made it 4-3 as the Nationals continued to give Philadelphia fits. Washington swept a doubleheader on Tuesday and go for the four-game sweep on Thursday.
“The young guys are growing up and it’s fun to watch,” said Johnson, named Nationals manager on June 26. “I think we’ve played as tough against them as anybody they’ve played.”
The Nationals played like the team storming toward the postsesaon, not the Phillies.
The Phillies have been in a funk since they clinched their fifth straight division title on Saturday. They’ve lost five straight games for the first time since May 22-27, 2010. All of the losses have come at home, where the Phillies are tied for the major league lead with 52 victories.
The Phillies played again without right fielder Hunter Pence(notes) and first baseman Ryan Howard(notes). Howard has been out with a sore left ankle and Pence missed his second straight game with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Both players are expected to play in Philadelphia’s weekend series at New York.
With postseason plans underway, the Phillies aren’t too worried about this slump. Manager Charlie Manuel said before the game he needs his regular lineup in tact for at least the last four or five games of the regular season to tune up for another potential deep postseason run.
“We definitely need to have our team ready and I plan on our team being ready,” Manuel said.
They haven’t looked it against Washington.
Backed by Espinosa’s go-ahead homer, the Nationals won their seventh straight road game. His 21st homer set a single-season franchise record by a rookie. The Nationals (75-79) still have a chance to set a franchise record for victories in a season. They will need to finish 7-1 to reach 82 wins, and finish with their first winning record since moving from Montreal in 2005.
“It feels good. I’ve run into some tough times here,” Lannan said.
Worley had fit in nicely in a rotation that included Cliff Lee(notes), Roy Halladay(notes), Roy Oswalt(notes) and Cole Hamels(notes), winning nine straight games in one stretch and becoming an instant fan favorite with his Mohawk and “Vanimal” nickname.
He’ll be bumped to the bullpen for the playoffs and this was his last start of the season.
“I’m still part of the team,” Worley said. “I’d rather come out of the bullpen a couple of times and get a feel for it.”
Worley had a 43-inning streak this season without allowing a homer, but he was done in by them on Wednesday. Ramos made it 2-0 in the second with his 14th homer of the season.
Howard and Pence have combined for 53 homers and the Phillies could have used some of that pop in the lineup. The Phillies scored only three runs in the doubleheader defeat and have been shut out twice over the five-game losing streak. They’ve scored three runs or less 12 times in the last 14 games.
That kind of anemic run support will shift even more pressure to produce on the Lee-Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt postseason rotation. Even the so-called “Four Aces” need more than a run or two each start if the Phillies are going to win the World Series for the first time since 2008.
“I’m concerned about it,” Manuel said. “At the same time, I’ve seen them hit. I think they’ll hit.”
Notes: The Nationals beat the Phillies for the eighth time in the last 10 games (4-1 at Nationals Park; 4-1 at Citizens Bank Park). … The Phillies lost five straight home games for the first time since June 16-21, 2009. … The Nationals send RHP Brad Peacock(notes) (1-0, 1.42 ERA) to complete the sweep Thursday against Oswalt (8-9, 3.66).