Bell hits first career slam in 127 at-bats

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Right from the start, the Philadelphia Phillies played as if this series was key to their playoff hopes. The Washington Nationals didn't.

David Bell hit the first grand slam of his career and Vicente Padilla threw six strong innings Friday night to lead Philadelphia to a 7-1 victory over the Nationals, who fell four games behind the Phillies in the NL wild-card race.

"This is a big month for us. We're having fun," said Bell, who had never homered in 126 previous career at-bats with the bases loaded -- the longest such drought among current players. "It's like playing in the playoffs every game."

In a matchup of rivals in the tight NL East, Jason Michaels set the game's tone in the top of the first, racing to second base while Washington left fielder Marlon Byrd casually went over to pick up what appeared to be a routine single. Michaels scored by again running hard all the way on a bouncing single up the middle by Bobby Abreu.

It was the type of aggressiveness that Washington hasn't had much chance to display on the base paths at home recently, totaling one run and 11 hits over its past three games at RFK Stadium.

"I'm very surprised about the attitude and the stuff that's happening. The willingness to give it all you've got is just not there," Nationals outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "We need to go out with more willingness, more heart, more effort."

The Nationals tied it in the second on Wilkerson's RBI single, ending their home scoreless drought at 22 innings. But that was one of two bright spots for Washington, the other being the first major-league hit of top draft pick Ryan Zimmerman, who doubled in the fifth.

"I'd rather go 0-for-3 with a win," said Zimmerman, the No. 4 overall pick in June's draft.

He was stranded by three straight flyouts, typical of the Nationals' offensive output at home since the All-Star break -- particularly, for some reason, against mediocre pitching.

This time, it was Padilla (8-12) who brought in unimpressive stats but sure seemed impressive. He allowed one run and four hits.

"I was worried about his command. He battled, he stayed in there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "What gets him in trouble during games is when he slows the game down. Overthinking."

The Nationals' offense, averaging 2.6 runs in the past 20 home games, didn't make any of Philadelphia's pitchers do too much of that. Aquilino Lopez allowed one hit over the seventh and eighth innings, and Geoff Geary got the last three outs.

Nationals starter John Halama (0-2) again filled in for Ryan Drese, who will have shoulder surgery this month, and in three innings gave up six runs, seven hits and three walks, including a four-pitch free pass to Padilla in the third.

The Phillies sent 10 batters to the plate in that inning and scored five runs, the biggest blow by Bell, who's hitting .246.

Halama walked Chase Utley to load the bases with two outs. After Halama threw a ball to start Bell's at-bat, pitching coach Randy
St. Claire went to the mound. Bell drove the next pitch to left for
his seventh homer of the season. That made it 5-1, and when Mike
Lieberthal doubled home Ryan Howard to make it 6-1, many in the
announced crowd of 28,939 booed loudly.

"It looked like he just ran out of gas," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said about Halama. "He had nothing."

Abreu added an RBI single off Mike Stanton in the fourth, scoring Michaels, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs scored. Stanton was pitching in his fourth game in three days, symptomatic of a bullpen hampered by injuries and some short recent outings by starters.

"The thing about the pitching staff right now is it's taxed. It's overtaxed. It's tired," Robinson said.

For the Phillies, it was their third straight victory against teams trying to catch them in the wild-card standings, following two against the New York Mets.

Washington was a step late all night. In addition to Michaels' play in the first, center fielder Preston Wilson had a ball go in and out of his glove on a tough play in the fourth. And Wilson was called out in the sixth when Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins ranged to his right and slid in the outfield grass to stop a grounder and then made a one-hop throw to first.

"We've got to realize what we're playing for," Wilkerson said. "Now's the time to want it."

Game notes
Alex Gonzalez of the Devil Rays now has most at-bats with the bases loaded among active players without a grand slam. ... Phillies right-hander Gavin Floyd will start Sunday in place of right-hander Robinson Tejeda (inflammation in his pitching shoulder).