The Phillies beat the Nationals this afternoon, giving them a series win with a game yet to play in Washington. It was their fourth straight series victory for a team that may be heating up just before entering one of its toughest stretches of the season.
Maikel Franco’s big day
On July 14, 2017, Maikel Franco went 4-for-5 against the Brewers. The Phillies lost 9-6, but his pair of doubles and two RBI helped make the Phillies 3-for-15 wish RISP look not as bad. And then, for along time, Franco did not have four hits in one game. Today, he did it again. But this wasn’t just 4-for-4 in garbage time; this was clutch hitting, on-base troublemaking, and generally being the kind of insufferable presence that drove the Nationals nuts. Franco only had one hit for extra bases, but he scored twice and knocked in a run himself. Both times he scored, he had to work for it, using strategic slides to out-manuever Adam Eaton’s throws home. He even had a nice hustle play in the fourth, when he scrambled to second base while the Nationals infield was distracted and was only called out because he couldn’t hold onto the second base bag. Drama! Intrigue! Offense!
And it would be so nice to list this day as part of an impressive season, or without the context of Franco’s glacial output, but that’s tough to do these days. I can tell you to just enjoy watching him pester and poke the Nats all day, but we all know what’s coming in regards to free agency and potential moves. Here’s hoping Franco keeps being the kind of player he was today—he did make a Brooks Robinson play at third base the other day, too—because that’s the player we’ve always wanted him to be.
Aaron Nola’s not-best was totally fine
If everything works a little bit, then guys can start relying on each other. If Maikel Franco is putting a charge in the offense, Nola doesn’t have to make one or two runs stand up against the projected division champions. If the bullpen can hold a lead, than Nola doesn’t have to worry about getting fatigued by throwing late into the game when a reliever can inherit the game. And if everything’s working, then Nola has the leeway to make a mistake or two. The first inning got a little out of control with Daniel Murphy’s RBI single, and it was clear that Washington wasn’t going to make it easy for Nola, coming off his most hair-raising start of the season. Nola stuck around for six innings, keeping his inning by inning pitch count relatively clean (only 18 in the first, despite the rally). Tommy Hunter didn’t allow any trouble, but Anthony Rendon tagged Adam Morgan for a solo shot in the eighth. Seranthony Dominguez had a pair of K’s to close things out.
The Phillies scrapped enough offense together
Franco had the best day at the plate by far—no one else even had a multi-hit day. But it was Jorge Alfaro’s RBI single that got the Phillies on the board, and Nola pushed a hippity-hoping grounder through the right side to tie the game at two in the second. Franco scored on a sac fly, and then Carlos Santana made it 4-2 with a clutch insurance bomb. It was Franco again moments later in the eighth who extended the lead to 5-2 by punching an RBI single.
Jorge Alfaro smoked Bryce Harper
In a tie game in the fifth, Bryce Harper tried doing what he does best: Untying things. Aggressiveness on the base paths was really working for the Phillies, so Harper decided to try it out and went to steal second base after drawing a walk from Nola. Unfortunately for him, the Howitzer attached to the right side of Jorge Alfaro’s body eliminated that threat at 110 m.p.h., leaving flabbergasted members of the press only able to communicate the moment in short, succinct verbiage.
Harper goes. Alfaro gets him. Inning over.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) June 23, 2018
It was a stunning throw; hard, fast, and accurate. Alfaro leads the league in caught stealing with 14.
The Braves lost
For as many miracles as the Braves seemed to have been pulling out of their butts, the Phillies have never plummeted too far from them in the standings. Playing the lowly Orioles today, it didn’t seem wise to bet on an Atlanta loss, but the O’s held on and helped the Phillies climb a rung in the NL East.