Clemens is one of several standout performers as Phillies sweep Nationals – NBC Sports Philadelphia

The score was tied when Cody Clemens stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, bunting out and runners on first and third. In an attempt to keep the game close, Nationals manager Dave Martinez went to his bullpen and waved to his lone left-hander, Robert Garcia.

The left fielder struck out, then launched what looked like a routine fly ball to left field. Jesse Winkler drifted but the ball kept getting away from him. Winkler drifted more, carried the ball more. Finally, and improbably, the ball landed harmlessly in foul territory between the stands and the foul line.

“It was pretty much in play,” Clemens said. “Then it kept sailing over there and fortunately it didn’t get caught. I spun it back around, cut it off a little bit and lifted it into the air. It gave me another go.”

Manager Rob Thompson added: “That was a bit different. I thought it would be a fair ball to catch. It must have had some funny touches.”

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

This sequence neatly summed up 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 high expectations. Clemens opened the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This is his second summons. He doubled twice Sunday, scored two runs, and drove in two runs. He’s hitting .321.

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

They also seem to have an uncanny knack for taking advantage of the slightest opportunity. It’s hard to prove that on a spread sheet, but being 20 games above .500 early in the season is good circumstantial evidence. “We’ve been fortunate to find a lot of ways to win games when we’re not playing well,” Thompson said. “This is good. This shows that we are a good team.”

Clemens’ contributions came just hours after he helped illustrate another trait of winning teams: playing hard until the final game. Just when it looked like the Phillies were about to lose on Saturday night, a homer tied the score and the team went on to win in the 10th.

He was one of several featured performers on Sunday.

Aaron Nola gave up just two hits in seven innings. They both fell on the other side of the fence, but still. He is now 6-2 with a 3.05 earned run average.

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

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

Nick Castellanos, who was having a season-long slump, had three hits.

So the Phillies probably would have won even if Clemens had been caught on a foul ball in the fifth inning. Fortunately, they didn’t have to know that.

Clemens is getting his best chance to showcase himself yet because Trea Turner is on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. He’s trying not to think about what kind of roster move will be made when Turner returns.

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“It’s hard to think about,” he said. “I’m kind of trying to take it one day at a time. It comes down to believing in myself, knowing I can do it here and continuing to try to help the team. It’s all about trying to get quality at bats and playing good defense. Just contributing as much as I can.”

During his time in the major leagues last season, he played left field. Naturally, he is willing to do it again if asked. “Obviously I will do everything I can to stay. It’s a tough job sometimes, but when my name is called I have to be ready.

That’s the thing about baseball. Sometimes a volleyball is caught. Sometimes a mistake is made and you get another chance.

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