WASHINGTON Aaron Altherr slowed as he neared first base, almost stopping as he watched his hit fall to shallow center field on Friday night in the third inning of an 8-2 win over the Washington Nationals. He then saw the ball blitz past a diving outfielder and skip toward the wall at Nationals Park.
It was time to run again.
Altherr sprinted around the bases and slid safely into home without a throw. It was the 14th inside-the-park grand slam in Phillies history and first since Ted Kazanski in 1956.
"My heart stopped a little bit and then I saw it go by him. I was like 'Oh man. Might have a chance here,' " Altherr said.
Washington's Michael A. Taylor never had a chance to make a play after his attempt at a diving catch came up empty. Altherr reached home a few paces behind pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, who scored from first and earned the win with 10 strikeouts. Brian Bogusevic and Cameron Rupp also scored on the play.
"I was rounding third and I kind of took a quick peek at him and he was pretty close to me," Eickhoff said. "So I thought, I better get going here."
Altherr batted again in the fifth inning. This time he made sure he could run the bases with ease. The rookie homered to left field, becoming the first Phillies player to hit a homer and an inside-the-park grand slam in the same game since Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones in 1951.
Altherr finished 4-for-5 with five RBIs. Darin Ruf added a homer in the fifth and Cody Asche homered in the eighth. The Phillies chased Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman after five innings in what could be his final start at Nationals Park. Zimmerman allowed six runs on six hits. The right-hander is expected to be one of the higher-priced free agents this offseason.
The win virtually eliminates the Nationals from making a miracle push to the playoffs. A Nationals loss combined with a New York Mets win over the Reds lowered the Mets' magic number to just one with eight games left. If the Mets win the National League East, it will mean that the Phillies are the only team in the last 10 seasons to win consecutive division crowns.
Eickhoff allowed two runs in seven innings. He was able to rely on his fastball, slider, and curveball. Eickhoff said he threw his change-up just once. His 10 strikeouts were the most by a Phillies rookie since J.A. Happ struck out 10 batters in 2009. The 25-year-old has an 3.07 ERA in seven starts since being acquired from Texas as part of the Cole Hamels trade.
Eickhoff struck out Bryce Harper three times, joining elite company. The only other pitchers this season to strike out Harper three times in a game are Matt Harvey, Madison Bumgarner, and Clayton Kershaw. All three of Eickhoff's strikeouts against Harper came on curveballs. Harper went down swinging on two of the three.
"He just looks like a determined young man who is trying to make the team next year," Mackanin said. "And he's doing a darn good job of impressing everyone. I like his pace. I like his demeanor on the mound. His curveball was outstanding. If you've struck out Harper three times, you've done a hell of a job."
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