WASHINGTON — Shortly after the Philadelphia Phillies’ streak of nine consecutive winning seasons came to a close, they started finding scapegoats.
Philadelphia lost 5-1 to the National League East champion Washington Nationals on Wednesday to finish 81-81 and in third place, following five division titles in a row.
Didn’t take long for the fallout to begin: The Phillies fired first-base coach Sam Perlozzo, bench coach Pete Mackanin and hitting coach Greg Gross.
And expect more moves.
“We’re definitely going to have some changes on our roster,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “How many or what, I don’t really know.”
Perlozzo, former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, joined the Phillies as their third-base coach for the 2009 season. He moved to first base in 2011. Gross was Philadelphia’s bench coach in 2001, then hitting coach from 2002-04 and from July 2010 until Wednesday. Mackanin arrived in Philadelphia in 2009.
“We dug ourself in a pretty hole pretty early, and ... it was almost too much to overcome. Next year, we’ve got to come in and start off better,” said left-hander Cliff Lee (6-9), who allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings Wednesday and finished with a losing record for the first time since 2007.
“Injuries hurt us pretty bad this year, but the other teams in this division have gotten better. So nothing is going to come easy,” Lee added. “But if we’re healthy and guys are out there playing the we can, then we can beat anyone.”
Wasn’t all that long ago — in 2008 and 2009, actually — that the Nationals were losing 100 games a season and finishing with the worst record in the majors.
But their victory Wednesday gave them a majors-high 98th victory and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Obviously winning the division was a goal and now we’ve done that and we have a chance to go do some stuff in the playoffs. This is a great season, a great team, a good group of guys, and we accomplished a lot that we should be proud of.”
He continued: “But we have a lot more to accomplish, hopefully.”
Fitted for hats with postseason patches before the game, the Nationals will open the playoffs on the road Sunday at the winner of Friday’s wild-card game between Atlanta and St. Louis.
Game 2 will also be at the wild-card winner’s stadium, before the best-of-five series shifts to Washington. A team from the nation’s capital hasn’t participated in Major League Baseball action beyond the regular season since the Senators lost the 1933 World Series.
The only downer Wednesday for the Nationals: Manager Davey Johnson missed the end of the game after feeling numbness in his left leg, leaving the dugout to get X-rays and treatment from a team doctor.
Johnson — at 69, the oldest skipper in the majors — said he does not expect to have any trouble traveling or managing in the playoffs.
Asked his level of concern about Johnson, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo replied: “None.”
Otherwise, it was a festive day for the announced crowd of 37,075 and the Nationals (98-64), a club that only once had finished as high as third place since moving from Montreal in 2005.
This is the first time the Expos/Nationals franchise has won its division in a complete season.
Zimmerman hit his 25th homer of the season moments after the Teddy Roosevelt mascot won the fourth-inning Presidents Race at Nationals Park for the first time. Edwin Jackson (10-11) threw 62/3 innings to become the fifth member of the rotation with at least 10 wins.
Rookie Tyler Moore’s 10th homer made him the seventh player with at least that many.
“I like where we’re sitting headed into the postseason,” left fielder Jayson Werth said.
He signed with Washington as a $126 million free agent before last season, leaving a Philadelphia club he helped win the 2008 World Series.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins praised the Nationals as “a talented team” but added that if the Phillies had been healthy this season, Washington would have been no better than a second-place club.
Notes: Philadelphia 1B Darin Ruf delivered a sacrifice fly in the fourth. He has driven in all eight Phillies runs in their last four games against Washington. ... Phillies RHP Tyson Brummett made his major-league debut in the eighth, allowing two singles and striking out two batters. ... The Phillies’ nine winning seasons matched a team record set from 1975-83. They went 81-81 in 1984. ... Phillies OF Domonic Brown said he’ll get an MRI exam today to check on his right knee