Coming on the heels of an emotional, fun, unlikely win over the Nationals last night, the Phillies looked to extend their recent dominance over the Nationals (7-1 against Washington over their last 8, coming into the game) and mark their first series sweep of the new season. To accomplish this feat the Phillies turned to their B-team, resting Utley and Ruiz, in front of current fifth starter and Chad Billingsley place holder, and ominous initial haver Sean O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan faced a Nationals team that are the consensus pick to win the NL East, and more, but today's game wasn't necessarily a foregone conclusion; any given Sunday and all that jazz, you know? It also doesn't hurt that this is a Nationals team missing their 1, 2, and 3-hole hitters as Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Dernard Span are all on the disabled list. Who are, for some reason, starting Dan Uggla at second base. No excuses, Nationals, you go to the park with the team you have, not the team you might want or wish to have at a later time, to paraphrase a guy.
Things started out swimmingly, as SOS plowed through the top of the Nats lineup easily enough, retiring leadoff batter and owner of a .292 career OBP, Michael Taylor (thanks Matt Williams!) and starting shortstop Yunel Escobar. Then Bryce Harper knocked a ball into the shrubbery nestled between the left field wall and the left field stands. One nothing, other team. If you're going to have a pitching staff that gives up a lot of home runs, it's good to have one that only surrenders solo shots, I suppose.
Revere led off the bottom of the first with his first walk of the season, and eventually stole second during Ryan Howard's ill fated first at bat. I won't say exactly what happened in that at bat, because the telecast just told me I need express written consent of Major League Baseball to disseminate an account or description of this game. Uh oh. I'll give you a hint though: It's something Howard does in approximately a third of his plate appearances. The end result of all that, no runs.
SOS channeled his inner Aroldis Chapman in the second, striking out Ramos and Desmond in a perfect half inning. Odubel Herrera picked up his second major league hit in the second, though it was met with much less jubilation than his previous hit. Such is life. Belle of the ball one day, just another cog in the machine the next. He stole second then advanced to third on a bad throw coupled with Dan Uggla trying to field said throw, where he would remain for the rest of the inning.
The middle innings of this matchup just kind of muddled by. We awaited the inevitable O'Sullivan collapse that never came, as he acquitted himself well for a guy who had not struck out four major league batters in a game since 2011. The Nationals scraped up a second run in the fourth after Ryan Zimmerman singled, advanced on a wild pitch, a Robinson single and a Wilson Ramos sac fly to deep right-center.
The Phillies finally got on the board when Sean O'Sullivan scored. Sometimes if you want run support you have to do it yourself. Sort of. SOS worked a one-out walk against Scherzer, advanced to second on a Revere single and scored on a Cody Asche line-drive single to right. He would come out and shut down the Nationals in the top of the sixth to end his day, finishing the game with perfectly respectable line of 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO. That actually compares pretty well to Scherzer's line (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO), so congrats Sean O'Sullivan, you're the equal of a $210 million pitcher. For today, at least. How's that for the Phillies making a "surplus value" signing, eh? Eh? Eh.
The Phils tied up the game in the 7th, calling this young, up-and-coming prospect off the bench who promptly crushed a Xavier Cedeno pitch deep into the moderately populated left field stands. Keep an eye on this Darin Ruf guy, I predict nothing but big things, as soon as the Phillies play out the string on the contract of the player who is currently firmly entrenched at first base (and the four hole in the lineup, for some inexplicable reason).
Ken Giles held serve in the eighth, though his success is belies a lingering concern about him. He's still not pitching at last year's velocity, he's still wild, and he still claims he feels fine. Perhaps he is, but this is not the 2014 version of Giles that we saw last season. He worked around a leadoff walk to Cedeno and a Robinson single before getting Wilson Ramos to strike out on sliders. Let's hope he works whatever issues he has out, and does so before his repeated use in high-leverage situations comes back to bite the Phillies.
Diekman came in to pitch the ninth, in which he did well, and after the Phillies failed to score in their half of the ninth, the tenth as well. The latter did not go quite as well as the former for Mssr. Diekman. He opened the inning by allowing a lead-off double to Escobar, who moved to third on a Harper grounder to first. With Escobar at third Sandberg decided to go with Justin De Fratus, who proceeded to unleash a wild pitch allowing Escboar to score. De Fratus wasn't done giving up runs as he surrendered a Robertson double to deep center and a Ramos line drive single allowing Robertson to score. Nats 4, Phils 2.
Things got a little interesting in the bottom of the tenth when Drew Storen walked the first two batters he faced, putting the tying run on base. Storen was able to shut down the Phillies by striking out Grady Sizemore, then getting a pinch hitting Chase Utley to fly out to the warning track in right. That brought up Herrara, who hit a dribbler down the third base line which scored Freddy Galvis. Cesar Hernandez, however, couldn't keep the rally going, grounding out to first base to end the game.
Nationals 4, Phils 3.
Your 2015 Phillies, everyone.
"Hey, look at this great event that's happening right now *not* at the ballpark! Don't you wanna go?!" - Phillies TV booth just now— Liz Roscher (@lizroscher) April 12, 2015
And yeah, I kind of do
Despite my snark and expectations for a crappy afternoon of baseball, this game was actually fairly entertaining despite the loss. It was closer than most would have predicted judging from these two teams, lineups and pitching matchups, and the Phils had a chance to win the game in extras, getting their best hitter to the plate with two on. In the end Chase just missed hitting it out and the rest of the squad being unable to get the tying run in, but it wasn't totally unwatchable, though the announcers did their best to make it so. The Phillies get back at it tomorrow at 1:10 PM against the 2nd place Mets.
Live-blogged game notes:
- Ryan Howard, who looked good yesterday, did not look good in his first
at bat two three four at bats, striking out twice three four times on four seven eleven fifteen pitches. He looks completely overmatched by decent major league fastballs. Sad.
- Oduble was disrobing during a stolen base, overthrow, advance to third sequence in the second inning. Nothing came of it.
- Tom McCarthy said O'Sullivan was "in a pickle" in the top of the third. I don't like him saying that. I also pictured a human being inside of a massive pickle, smelling of brine and fetid cucumber.
- Ben Davis, still not exactly a font of interesting analysis:
"The less you're thinking out there, the better you're gonna be." - Ben Davis, who is paid to say things about baseball, please fire him— Liz Roscher (@lizroscher) April 12, 2015
- Odd game, I was continuously waiting for both O'Sullivan to collapse and the Scherzer to start dominating this anemic lineup, but neither happened. The Phillies hung around and generally had men on base all day, while the Nats couldn't get much going against this sad rotation's fifth starter.
- Most people who pointed to Howards RBI totals as some sort of indicator of his ability are now gone, but today wasn't a good day for the remaining members of that club.
Ryan Howard 0-3, 3 Ks vs. Scherzer, 5 men left on, 4 in scoring position. Rest of the team has made Scherzer work tho, 92 pitches thru 5 IP— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidman) April 12, 2015
- Whatever your thoughts are on Darin Ruf, the guy can punish pitches left up and in.
- Could Mike Schmidt be one of our commenters?
"The one young hitter we have with big time upside" - Mike Schmidt on Darin Ruf— Ryan (@Eric_Lindros) April 12, 2015
- Game thread comment of the day:
Fangraph of Two Out of Three Ain't Bad: