PHILADELPHIA — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had said he didn’t care about the difference between 99 losses and 100 for his rebuilding club.
Now that Philadelphia can’t get to triple digits, he’s changed his tune.
“I lied,” he said. “I admit it.”
Jake Thompson and four relievers combined to hold the Washington Nationals in check as the Phillies spoiled Bryce Harper’s return with a 4-1 win Tuesday night.
The win ensures that Philadelphia (63-95) will not lose 100 games. The Phillies haven’t lost that many since 1961, when they dropped 107 of 154 games.
With the loss, Washington locked itself into the second seed in the NL playoffs behind the Dodgers. The Nationals will host the NL Central champion — either the Cubs or Milwaukee — in a Division Series beginning Oct. 6 at Nationals Park.
“Their bullpen just shut us down,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
Thompson (3-2) gave up a run over five innings, then Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris combined to strike out nine over four perfect innings. Neris got his 25th save.
“Right now, it is just get it to these guys with the lead and let it take over,” Thompson said. “It seems like they are all firing at the same time. It’s fun to watch.”
Harper played for the first time since hyperextending and bruising his left knee on Aug. 12. He was 0 for 2 with a walk before being lifted in the fifth inning. Baker hasn’t decided if Harper will play Wednesday.
“I feel fine,” Harper said after the game. “Just try and get past tonight and see what I feel like tomorrow. If I feel good, then I’ll play. If I don’t, take a day and see what I feel like the next day.”
Tommy Joseph had two hits, including a tying RBI single as part of a three-run third inning. Cameron Rupp followed with a line drive that sailed over the head of outfielder Michael Taylor in center field, bouncing to the wall to bring home both Aaron Altherr and Joseph.
Rhys Hoskins added a sacrifice fly in the seventh for the Phillies.
Howie Kendrick, who was traded from Philadelphia to Washington on July 28, connected on his ninth homer in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Washington didn’t get a hit after the third inning, though.
Neris ended the game by striking out the side in the ninth. It was his 19th straight save, the longest streak for the club since Jonathan Papelbon converted 19 straight in 2014-15.
“Like a lot of guys, you have to learn how to relax,” Mackanin said. “The ninth inning is different than any other innings. He’s starting to get more comfortable and relaxed.”
Gio Gonzalez (15-8) allowed three runs in five innings.
The Phillies are 24-21 against left-handed starting pitchers this season. They are 39-74 against righties. … Morgan has an 0.72 ERA in his last 19 games. … Anthony Rendon’s third-inning double allowed him to tie a career high with 66 extra-base hits, matching his total from 2014.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was held out for a second straight game due to soreness in his hamstring. Baker said the move was precautionary.
The Nationals and Phillies will meet for the final time in 2017 on Wednesday. Washington will send RHP Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41) to the mound. He will be opposed by Phillies RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69).
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