MLB Wild Card: Desperate Phillies beat Nationals to snap losing streak

Phillies flex muscles against majors' worst team to get back on winning track originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals proved to be just what the slumping Phillies needed on Friday afternoon.

The Phillies beat the rain and the Nationals, 5-1, in the first game of a doubleheader in the nation's capital.

Bailey Falter delivered a strong start and Rhys Hoskins drove in an early run with his 30th homer and a late run with an RBI single.

The victory nudged the Phillies' lead over the Milwaukee Brewers to a game in the battle for the third and final National League wild-card spot. The Phils hold a tiebreaker over Milwaukee so that puts their magic number for gaining entry to the postseason at five. There could be more movement in the race later Friday night as the Phillies play the second game of their doubleheader against the Nationals and the Brewers host Miami.

The Phillies limped into Washington, losers of five straight and 10 of their previous 13. They had been "embarrassed" -- to use Jean Segura's word -- the previous three days in Wrigley Field, scoring just three runs while being swept by the Cubs.

On paper, the lowly Nationals (54-102) figured to be just the prescription the Phillies needed to get well -- or at least start feeling better. The Phils had dominated Washington with 13 wins in 15 previous meetings this season. The Game 1 victory improved the Phils to 14-2 against the worst team in the majors. They need to keep pouring it on in the nightcap and throughout the rest of the four-game series.

Of course, weather could be an issue as the remnants of Hurricane Ian begin to arrive in the Washington area. Rain is in the forecast Friday night and throughout the weekend.

Update: Game 2 Friday was postponed by rain. The Phillies and Nationals are scheduled to play a separate admission doubleheader Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m.

The Phillies did not hit a homer and had just two extra-base hits in Chicago. Hoskins broke the homerless drought with a solo blow against Erick Fedde in the first inning. Later in that inning, J.T. Realmuto stole his 19th and 20th bases to become just the second catcher in big-league history to reach 20 steals and 20 homers in the same season. Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez hit 35 homers and stole 25 bases in 1999.

Brandon Marsh stroked a two-out double and scored on a hit by Segura in the fourth and the Phils pushed across an unearned run in the sixth before Hoskins singled home a run in the ninth.

Falter pitched six shutout innings and gave up just three hits. He walked two and struck out six. The left-hander has been excellent in a fill-in rotation role. The Phils are 7-2 in his last nine starts.

Zach Eflin, Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez closed it out. Dominguez was not sharp. He loaded the bases before ending the game with a strikeout and a groundout.

Noah Syndergaard is scheduled to start the nightcap for the Phillies against right-hander Tommy Romero, who will be making his second big-league start.