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The Strike Zone

Nationals err in not taking advantage of Phillies' errors

Chase Utley committed three errors in a game for the first time in his career Thursday. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images) Chase Utley committed three errors in a game for the first time in his career Thursday. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

The tone was set on the very first batter, when the Nationals’ Denard Span popped a 2-1 pitch into foul territory. Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf was camped under the ball when second baseman Chase Utley collided with him, dropping the ball for an error.

In the fourth inning, with a runner on first base and two outs, Utley booted a groundball off the bat of Adam LaRoche and then recovered only to make an errant throw, bouncing the ball past Ruf to allow the runner to advance to third base. The scorer gave Utley two errors on that play, the first time in 1,182 games at second base that he has committed three errors.

In all, the Phillies (Phillieeees?) committed four errors on Thursday night -- third baseman Michael Young chipped in a throwing error in the fifth inning -- and won in spite of themselves, knocking off the Nats 3-1 behind a stellar outing from Kyle Kendrick.

They somehow managed to escape damage in all three innings errors were committed: Span lined out to Utley in the first; Anthony Rendon flew out after LaRoche to end the fourth; and a double play wiped out the runner Young allowed to reach in the fifth.

Winning while committing four errors isn’t as uncommon as you would think. Well, it’s at least less rare than I thought. I expected to have to travel back a few years in time to find the last such occurrence, but I only had to return to May 30, when the Astros beat the Rockies 7-5 despite four fielding errors. A month before that, the Dodgers also beat the Brewers by a 7-5 score despite committing four errors.  In fact, three of the seven teams who have committed four errors in a game this season have still won that contest, a .429 winning percentage.

Such success is, however, a bit of an anomaly: teams committed at least four errors 27 times in 2012 but only won five times for a .185 winning percentage. In researching games of four-or-more errors from last year, two facts stood out: Arizona actually won a game with five errors last Apr. 8, knocking off San Francisco 7-6; and the Pirates were the four-error culprit in five of those 27 instances, also beating Arizona 7-6 back on Aug. 8, 2012. (It’s a total coincidence, of course, but four of the five games I’ve specifically cited have been settled by either a 7-5 or 7-6 score.)

With the win, Philadelphia closed to within 1 1/2 games of Washington for second place, making it entirely possible that, at the end of the season, it’s the Nationals who look back on this night and say they erred.

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