Phils stage late rally, sweep Nationals
Escalona thrilled to pick up victory in Major League debut
WASHINGTON -- The smile on Sergio Escalona's face told most of the story.
The two baseballs sitting on the shelf of his locker in the visitors' clubhouse told the rest of it.
Just hours after joining the Phillies' bullpen, giving them a much-needed extra arm before their fourth game in fewer than 48 hours, the 24-year-old southpaw not only made his Major League debut, but he came away with the win in the Phillies' 8-6 victory over the Nationals on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.
The come-from-behind win gave the Phils (20-16) a four-game sweep of the Nats and an ideal opening to their current 10-game road trip.
Escalona's win marked the second time in as many games that a Phils pitcher picked up his first Major League victory. On Saturday night, right-hander Andrew Carpenter earned the win in an emergency start in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader before heading back to the Minors to make room for Escalona.
In Carpenter's case, a rain-shortened five-inning game in which he tossed the first 4 1/3 innings, the victory was awarded retroactively and the pitcher was already en route back to Allentown, Pa., to join his team, so the Phillies managed to pick up a few souvenirs to send him.
Escalona, though, had the fruits of his labors in his hands -- one baseball which was the final out of his scoreless seventh inning, and one which was the final out of the game -- the game ball.
"It's unbelievable, really. Amazing. I don't have words for what I feel right now," said Escalona, who became the pitcher of record as the beneficiary of a three-run outburst by the Phillies in the eighth. "I've waited for this moment, and I always felt I'd pitch in the big leagues, but not so soon."
Manager Charlie Manuel had no qualms about putting his newcomer right into the thick of things.
"I have absolutely no problem with that; it's a good way to find out who you've got," Manuel said. "The kid came in here and what I liked about him is he was so happy about getting called up, he was just off the chart. He was into it. That's what it's all about."
The Phils' bullpen as a whole was a heroic figure during the four-game set, but never moreso than Sunday afternoon.
Starter Chan Ho Park could not get out of the second inning before giving up five runs, putting his team in a 5-3 hole at the end of two despite their jumping on Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann for three runs right out of the gate, highlighted by a two-run double by Shane Victorino.
"He had one of those outings where it seemed like he couldn't get going and nothing he tried worked," Manuel said of Park. "I don't know, he's the one that has to correct it by throwing strikes, by keeping his poise, by staying aggressive. He's the one that's got the ball. I don't know how else we can correct it. He's got to correct it in the game."
Park gave way to southpaw reliever Jack Taschner, the lone pitcher who had not yet seen time during the series, even in Friday night's 12-inning affair.
Taschner, who had not pitched since May 13, came through with 2 2/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball, keeping the club in the game. He was followed by Chad Durbin (two innings), Escalona, and Scott Eyre (1 1/3 innings).
In the meantime, the game remained close, with the Nats holding a 6-5 lead heading into the eighth, before Washington's bullpen woes resurfaced.
The Phillies got their first two runners on to open the frame against veteran Julian Tavarez, as Jayson Werth led off with a single to left and Victorino walked. Tavarez gave way to Jesus Colome, who allowed a bunt single to Pedro Feliz but, in fielding the ball, overthrew first, allowing Werth and Victorino to score. Feliz would provide an insurance run when he came home on a pinch-hit double off the bat of Eric Bruntlett.
After Eyre got the first out of the ninth before walking Willie Harris, closer Brad Lidge came on to finish things and did so masterfully, getting Josh Willingham to hit his first pitch into a double play to close out the sweep of Washington (11-25).
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.