On the first pitch he saw tonight, Jayson Werth clipped a Jake Thompson offering over the fence to make it 1-0 in the first inning.
One batter later, Thompson was able to induce a Daniel Murphy ground-out, but the Nationals weren’t done yet—Bryce Harper walked (probably the smart play, Jake) and, in true Bryce Harper fashion, scored from first base on an Anthony Rendon single that may have had help turning into an RBI when Freddy Galvis dropped the relay throw. Already 2-0, it looked like the first ever encouraging Jake Thompson start was once more going to be some other night.
Thompson had the Phillies outfield on the move on the balls they could catch. Thing was, even though the Nationals were pounding the ball, even though Thompson didn’t have his first 1-2-3 inning until the fourth, even though Washington was 5-1 at CBP this year and Werth’s home run was the 51st allowed by Phillies pitchers this month (that’s in 24 games), the Nationals didn’t keep scoring.
Once Harper crossed the plate in the first, the NL’s fourth most potent offense could only log five more hits, all of them singles. Thompson got plenty of fly ball outs and nullified a base runner in the third with a double play. Maikel Franco seemed busy at third snagging pop-ups. And the next thing you knew, Thompson had gotten past the fifth inning for the first time this season after four starts. Not long after, he pushed into the seventh.
Now, we were in truly foreign territory. Thompson had no idea what the seventh inning of a big league game looked like—it could have been the inning when ghosts become visible for all he knew. Fortunately, the seventh was quite similar to all of the innings before it, except for one factor: Thompson started capitalizing his K’s.
When he needed outs in his final inning, Thompson dug deep and started recording his first and last strikeouts of the evening. With a runner on, it was first Clint Robinson, flailing at nothing. Then came Danny Espinosa, swinging at air. Then, following a needless Tanner Roark single and a quick visit from Cameron Rupp, Thompson flipped the script and hung a backwards K on the white-hot Trea Turner, getting a thumbs-up from his catcher just a foot or so from Turner’s buckling knees.
That’s the good stuff.
Thompson departed having faced 28 Nationals, walking only one and allowing seven hits. His offense carried none of the weight, still down 2-0 entering the eighth. The Natonals’ Tanner Roark was dealing, too, only he didn’t have a crappy first inning to soil his record, allowing the Phillies four singles and a hit batsman, with which they did nothing.
Michael Mariot pitched a successful eighth, but Frank Herrmann’s ninth inning imploded. There was a dropped third strike that allowed a runner, a call got challenged and reversed, a fan grabbed a live ball, I don’t know, it was a mess. The Nationals scored twice. It was 4-0. The out of reach win drifted even further from existence and the Nationals won their seventh straight game against the Phillies, the longest active streak of its kind in baseball.
The story of the night, everybody knew, was Thompson, who made the best start of his very, very young career—he’s 22 remember—against one of the best teams in the National League. On a night when the Phillies lineup was once more reliably punchless (good luck tomorrow with Scherzer, guys), Thompson broke away and gave us a Phillies loss with a silver lining. Have a September, Jake.