Clemens one of several standout performers as Phillies complete sweep over Nationals

Clemens one of several standout performers as Phillies complete sweep over Nationals originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The score was tied when Kody Clemens stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, two outs and runners on first and third. Trying to keep the game close, Nationals manager Dave Martinez went to his bullpen and waved in his only lefthanded reliever, Robert Garcia.

The lefty swinger took a strike, then lofted what looked like a routine fly ball to left field. Jesse Winkler drifted over, but the ball kept carrying away from him. Winkler drifted more, the ball carried even more. Finally, improbably, it fell harmlessly in foul territory between the stands and the foul line.

“Off the bat, it was pretty much in play,” Clemens said. “Then it just kept sailing out over there and thankfully it wasn’t caught. I backspun it, kind of cut it a little bit and got it up in the air. It gave me another pitch.”

Added manager Rob Thomson: “That was kind of different. I thought it was going to be a fair ball and catchable. It must have had some funny spin on it.”

Well, it’s been said that baseball’s a funny game. Given another life, Clemens didn’t waste it. He drilled a double to left. Two runs scored and the Phillies romped to an easy 11-5 win to complete a sweep of the Nationals, delighting a Sunday sellout 44,713. It was the largest crowd of the season.

That sequence neatly encapsulated two of the traits that help explain why the Phillies continue to have the best record in baseball (34-14).

They’re getting production from all over the roster, from players who didn’t carry huge expectations. Clemens opened the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This is his second call-up. He doubled twice Sunday, scored twice, drove in a pair of runs. He’s batting .321.

(For further reference on this subject, please see: Sosa, Edmundo; Strahm, Matt and Hoffman, Jeff.)

They’ve also seemed to have an uncanny knack for taking advantage when given the slightest opening. That’s hard to demonstrate on a spread sheet, but being 20 games over .500 this early in the season is pretty good circumstantial evidence. “We’ve been fortunate to find a lot of ways to win games when we haven’t played well,” is the way Thomson put it. “And that’s good. It shows we’re a good team.”

Clemens' contributions came just hours after he helped illustrate another characteristic of winning teams: Playing hard to the final out. Just when it looked as though the Phillies were about to lose Saturday night, his homer tied the score and the team went on to win in the tenth.

He was one of several standout performers Sunday.

Aaron Nola gave up only two hits in seven innings. Both landed on the other side of the fence, but still. He’s now 6-2 with a 3.05 earned run average.

Alec Bohm had five RBI on two sac flies and a three-run homer.

Bryson Stott extended his on-base streak to a career-high 18 games.

Nick Castellanos, battling a season-long slump, had three hits.

So maybe the Phillies would have won even if Clemens’ foul ball in the fifth had been caught. Fortunately, they didn’t have to find out.

Clemens is getting his best chance to showcase himself yet because Trea Turner is on the injured list with a strained left hamstring. He tries not to think about what sort of roster move will be made when Turner comes back.

“It’s tough to think about that,” he said. “I kind of try and just go one day at a time. It goes back to believing in myself, knowing I can do this up here and just continue to try to help the team. It’s all about trying to have quality at bats and playing good defense. Just contribute as much as I can.”

During his time in the big leagues last season he played some left field. Of course, he’s willing to do that again if asked. “Obviously, I’m going to do whatever I can to stay. It’s a tough business sometimes, but when my name’s called I have to be ready.”

That’s the thing about baseball. Sometimes the fly ball is caught. Sometimes it falls foul and you get another opportunity.

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