Rhys Hoskins delivers in Phillies 2-1 10-inning win over Nationals, but more specific questions linger after another missed stoppage

WASHINGTON — After dominating for eight innings on Saturday as the Phillies held a one-run lead, Aaron Nola pulled away from the mound and into the dugout.

Surely he tried to convince caretaker manager Rob Thomson to fire him for the ninth.

“No,” Nola said. “Tomper said that was it.”

It really wasn’t a debate. Not with Nola who threw 105 pitches, four shy of his season high. The debate, however, will be about the reliever who replaced him. Thomson chose southpaw Brad Hand over Seranthony Domínguez, and Hand quickly missed the save against the Washington Nationals.

The Phillies ended up winning. Of course they did. Rhys Hoskins, who had most of the day off, came off the bench and delivered an RBI single before Domínguez kicked a scoreless 10th inning low to close out a 2-1 win in front of a box office crowd closed on the day of Ryan Zimmerman’s jersey retirement.

To update the daily tally: The Phillies have won 15 of their last 17 games and are 14-2 under Thomson, the best 16-game run to start a managerial career since Alex Cora started 14- 2 with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. They have also won 12 straight against the Nationals and 11 in a row at Washington.

But much of the post-match conversation focused on Thomson’s decision to go with Hand, particularly because Domínguez allowed a grand total of one point in his last 17 appearances.

Thomson explained that he preferred hand against heart in the Nationals order, especially left-handed hitter Juan Soto, who came first in the ninth inning.

“All this pocket [of the lineup] was his,” Thomson said. “We thought he threw the ball pretty well. He just hooked a breaking ball.

Hand walked Soto to open the inning, then pulled out tough Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell. Thomson could have turned to Domínguez at that time. Instead, he stayed with Hand, who gave up a two-out single to Lane Thomas that tied the game, 1-1.

After the Phillies regained the lead, they couldn’t add. Thomson turned to Domínguez at that point, and he needed 10 pitches to register three outs.

Thomson said the Phillies would split save opportunities between Hand and Domínguez after pulling struggling Corey Knebel out of the ninth-inning role earlier in the week.

Would he consider giving the job to Domínguez?

“We’ll see,” Thomson said. “We haven’t talked about it. We are always in this mode of [matching up based on] pockets [of the lineup]. It was good to see Knebel and [Jeurys] Familia do what they did [Friday night]. If they keep coming, we have more guys to think about in this high leverage situation.

With Hoskins taking a break and Bryce Harper out with a blister under his left index finger, the offense spat except for a seventh-inning solo homer by Yairo Muñoz.

But Nola was so good it looked like a 1-0 lead would hold. He allowed four hits — all singles — and only one runner in scoring position. He racked up eight strikeouts and was an economical, efficient strike-throwing machine.

Asked before the game which Phillies players deserve to be in the All-Star Game next month, Thomson argued for Nola, who has a 2.64 ERA in his last 11 starts.

“The switch went well today, better than usual,” Nola said. “I had early outs, fast innings, which helped me go far, and some good plays behind me. No walks helped, too. It was a key to going deep today.

The Phillies turned a few defensive gems behind Nola.

Second baseman Bryson Stott saved a run with a sliding save on César Hernández’s groundout in the hole in the sixth inning; center fielder Odúbel Herrera landed a dive off Maikel Franco’s downline to finish seventh; Matt Vierling backtracked to bring Luis Garcia’s fly ball back to the right-field warning track in the eighth.

Muñoz went 650 days between home runs in the majors when he had a solo shot Thursday night. He now has two circuits in three days.

Starting from third base because Alec Bohm filled in first, Muñoz broke a scoreless deadlock by taking Nationals reliever Erasmo Ramirez deep in the seventh inning.

“It’s really good,” Muñoz said through a team translator. “I think we’re the kind of team that if someone doesn’t do the job, there’s someone else to pick it up.”

Soto trailed a 0-for-14 — 0-for-12 schneid in the first three games against the Phillies — on the day before hitting a replayed field single in the first inning.

But the same rule still applies: when you face the Nationals, don’t let Soto beat you.

So, although Nola was sailing, the Phillies ordered an intentional walk from Soto with first base open and two outs in the sixth inning once Nola fell 2-0 down in the count. He broke Nola’s streak of 133 batting in 35 2/3 innings without a walk. He quickly pulled out Cruz to end the inning.

It was an unusually poor first half for Soto, batting .218 with an .800 OPS. He was also called out by manager Dave Martinez on Friday for not running hard on a groundout.

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