PHI@PIT: De Fratus fans Mercer to escape loaded bases

WASHINGTON -- When Phillies right-hander Justin De Fratus entered Saturday night's game in the seventh inning, the Nationals Park crowd was the loudest he had ever heard it, except for when Washington clinched a division title against Philadelphia last season. The Nats, battling for a postseason spot, trailed 5-1 but had the bases loaded with no outs, and the fans sensed a comeback.

De Fratus, however, was not intimidated. Inheriting bases-loaded situations has become something of a specialty for the 25-year-old this season, and he always reminds himself, "Hey, this is cool. Not many people get to experience this."

"You don't shy away from that kind of stuff. You just embrace it," De Fratus said. "It's not like saying, 'Oh, bring it on.' I'm not trying to be a tough guy. But you just embrace it. I can't change it, so, OK, it's more laid back."

Saturday's eventual 5-4 win marked the seventh time in De Fratus' 52 appearances that he has entered with the bases loaded. The rest of the team has combined for 12 such games, and no other Phillies pitcher has more than three.

He easily leads the team with 47 inherited runners, a mark that ties him for 11th in the Majors, although he has fewer appearances than everyone ahead of him on the list.

"I don't treat them any differently," De Fratus said of those dangerous spots. "And what is there to be afraid of? Why is that scary? The way I look at it is I'm not facing death -- it's just bases loaded, no outs. Big deal."

While De Fratus has a 4.39 ERA in 41 innings, he has handled his most perilous assignments admirably. Of the 21 runners he has inherited in bases-loaded situations, he has permitted only six to score.

On Saturday, he got the red-hot Jayson Werth to hit a grounder to third for a forceout at the plate before Ian Desmond scored one run with a sacrifice fly. Interim manager Ryne Sandberg then went to lefty Cesar Jimenez to face Bryce Harper.

"De Fratus, it seems like he's been put in that position all year long. It really does," Sandberg said. "Bases loaded, no outs. Bases loaded, one out. And he's been effective with the stuff that he has."

De Fratus said he goes into those situations with the goal of minimizing damage. While he doesn't want to let any of the previous pitcher's runs score, his focus is to escape with the lead if the Phillies have it. He doesn't try to change his approach, since his aim is always to get ground balls and strikeouts.

It's been a new sort of role for De Fratus, who had never entered with the bases loaded in 18 big league games before his season. He also doesn't recall doing it much in the Minors, where he spent time as a closer.

"Maybe it's just something I've responded to well," De Fratus said. "If that's what I do to help this team, that's cool. It works just fine for me. I'll embrace it every time. I understand I'm not going to succeed every time, but you're either the hero or the goat there. Why not? Just have fun."

Brown returns to lineup with right Achilles better

COL@PHI: Phillies walk off on Brown's single to right

WASHINGTON -- Domonic Brown was in the Phillies' starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 30 on Sunday afternoon for his club's 11-2 loss against the Nationals.

Brown, who went 1-for-4 with a double while playing left field, feels that his right Achilles is back to 100 percent, but he also isn't about to take any risks with his health over the last two weeks of the season. He compared his situation to that of first baseman Ryan Howard, who had a difficult recovery from a torn Achilles that occurred in the 2011 postseason.

"If [the injury] comes back, then I'm getting right out of the lineup," Brown said before Sunday's game. "It's that simple, really. It's really nothing to play around with. Being around Ryan Howard, seeing how that happened, I'm not trying to go through that. ... I'm definitely going to be smart with it. If I'm feeling something, I'm going to let the training staff know right away."

Brown has enjoyed a breakout season, sitting fourth in the National League with 27 home runs. But he's missed significant time in the second half, as a result of both the Achilles problem and an earlier concussion.

"That's part of the game. I don't really look at it any different way," Brown said. "Stay positive, stay focused and work my butt off to get back on the field as soon as possible."

In recent days, Brown had taken batting practice and gone through full pregame workouts. He appeared as a pinch-hitter on Friday and entered Saturday's game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, playing left field and later getting an at-bat.

He ripped a double to left-center field in his first at-bat on Sunday, later running hard to score from third on a sacrifice fly. He struck out in his final three at-bats but came through the game feeling strong.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg didn't commit to starting Brown again on Monday against the Marlins, but he's happy to have the slugger back in the fold coming down the stretch.

"A chance to hit 30 home runs -- that's something," Sandberg said. "A lot of times when you do something like that, it becomes a benchmark of what you can do and what you expect to do in the future. So that'd be big for him, along with whatever his RBIs could end up to being."

Worth noting

Roger Bernadina, who spent his whole career with that Nationals before being released last month, got the start in center field on Sunday. It was his first appearance of the series and his first start since Tuesday. Rookie Cesar Hernandez had started eight of the past nine games in center.

• Catcher Carlos Ruiz got the day off on Sunday, with Erik Kratz making his first start in a week.

• The Phillies have the chance to win a road series for the first time in the second half after splitting the first two games in Washington. They are 0-6-1 in seven sets since the All-Star break.