The Phillies can win games. They’ve won a bunch of them so far, at a pace at which they haven’t since 2011, and that was a pretty good team. But the Phillies have also proven that, while they can break off a four-game series sweep or win a game late with a two-out comeback, despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to push past the Braves for the division lead.
Part of that is just the swirling chaos of luck; the Braves play a role in it, too, and the two teams have only differentiated in the result of their games a very small number of times. The opportunity was there. But today, when the Braves went down 6-0 to the Marlins, it seemed that, if the rest of the season is any indication, that this game was even more likely to go in the L column for the Phils.
And then, the baseball did the rest.
The Phillies got Aaron Nola’d by Jack Flaherty
When a young pitcher is on, you know there are some guys in the Phillies lineup who are going to have a long day of quick at-bats: Jorge Alfaro. Scott Kingery. Maikel Franco had some classic, flailing Maikel Franco at-bats. Aaron Altherr didn’t look particularly effective with a pair of strikeouts (though he did have the Phillies’ second hit of the day, a huge deal when things are looking this helpless). But even offensive mainstays like Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrea struck out multiple times as well, meaning these bats just didn’t have the gas to keep up with what Flaherty was throwing. He went 7.2 innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and a single earned run.
Mike Matheny let him toss 120 pitches without breaking a sweat. Then, Flaherty was relieved by a man who can throw 102 mph.
So. Things did not improve.
Santana’s defense was not smooth
You can’t say enough about Carlos Santana’s turnaround at the plate. But for the second time in recent memory, a Santana throw to second base unlocked an opposing offense.
In the bottom of the fourth, Tyler O’Neill singled himself on base before Nola walked Dexter Fowler. A Kolten Wong ground ball to second seemed to shift the momentum, but as Santana attempted a return throw after Hernandez got the out at first, he couldn’t quite stick the landing and the ball didn’t quite make it into Kingery’s glove. O’Neill scored, Fowler raced to third, and Greg Garcia’s single knocked him in to make it 2-1. Nola was able to get the next two hitters with swinging strikeouts but the trouble was only starting.
The Cardinals offense fluttered to life
O’Neill’s career is all of eight games hold (and he entered today’s game hitting .182), but he connected for his second big league home run off Nola in the sixth. A Garcia sac fly made it 4-1, and a Jose Martinez RBI single in the seventh gave the Cardinals their 5-1 lead. Nola saw six innings of them, allowing seven hits, four earned runs, a walk, and six strikeouts.
Rhys Hoskins gave the Phillies their brief lead
It’s been tough to watch Rhys Hoskins hit the skids and stay there for so long. He’s not hitting sliders. He’s not hitting change-ups. Most nights, he’s not hitting at all.
On a day when a win seemed to be able to push the Phillies into first place, to see the young slugger finally get solid wood on the ball was an inspiring opening of the scoring in the top of the fourth. Until that point, and slightly beyond it, this was something of a pitchers duel, with Hoskins’ dinger the one glaring mistake on Flaherty’s record of the day. But all he had to do was wriggle out of the fourth for his team to take the lead and keep it.
Odubel Herrera’s on-base streak ended, officially
Odubel Herrera went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, buuuuuuuuuuuutttt he scrambled to first base after striking out on an absolutely horrid pitch from Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks that got away from the catcher and made it to the backstop. The throw pulled first baseman Matt Carpenter off the bag and Herrera was safe at first. Due to baseball’s inherent cruelty, this does not officially mean he reached base and his streak ended with him in fourth place all-time among Phillies reaching base in consecutive games (45). But, as anyone watching will tell you: He did. Odubel Herrera was on base today. But sort of, he wasn’t. But he was.
It wasn’t likely he was going to reach any other way anyhow.
It didn’t matter. The Phillies lost moments later.
Then, the Braves won anyway
Despite the Phillies TV broadcast briefly reporting that the Braves-Marlins game was over—John Kruk helpfully pointed out that no, it wasn’t—it continued to the point that the Braves erased an 8-2 deficit and came back to win 10-9 in Miami by scoring SIX RUNS IN THE NINTH INNING. So, this was never an opportunity to move into first place anyway. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Where’s that silver lining
Uh... here I guess?
The Phillies have homered in 15 straight games!