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Starting to fade: Nationals 5, Phillies 3

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As staunch a defender as I can be about this team, it’s starting to look like the beginning of the end

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game between the Nationals and the Phillies marks the beginning of perhaps the biggest stretch of games this season for the Phillies. With their miserable road trip behind them now and the chasm between them and the Braves growing ever wider, they needed to get this homestand off on the right foot. They turned to Zach Eflin to help them do so.

Eflin started the game by getting the first two batters out rather quickly, but he then allowed back to back singles to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. These were followed by an RBI single by Juan Soto, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead before the Phillies came to bat. When the Phillies went down quickly in their half of the inning, Matt Weiters came up in the second with one out and deposited the first pitch he saw into the right field seats, making it 2-0. That score would hold into the bottom of the third when the Phillies got their offense moving.

Nick Williams walked and was bunted over to second by Eflin. Roman Quinn then showed off his prized asset - speed.

This is why Gabe Kapler is so excited to have Quinn healthy again. He can do things like this. Rhys Hoskins walked, putting men on the corners. Cesar Hernandez followed that up with an RBI single of his own, tying the ballgame at 2. That’s all they would get.

Now, it’s hard to track using the standard websites, but it feels like whenever the Phillies have needed a shutdown inning this year, their pitching staff, as a whole, has not responded. Particularly, the back end of this starting rotation seems to be the most egregious at committing this crime. Tonight was no exception. In the top of the 4th, Eflin allowed a lead off single to Soto, then sent him to second on a wild pitch. Ryan Zimmerman would walk next, but Eflin did get Weiters to fly out to deep centerfield, enough to send Soto to third. Wilmer Difo would walk next, loading the bases for pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Luckily for the Phillies, manager Davey Martinez decided that a safety squeeze was the best play, with Strasburg bunting back to the mound area. However, the Phillies’ season long problem fielding balls of any kind (ground, fly, line drives) reared its ugly head as Eflin, who had plenty of time, instead tossed the ball to the backstop, allowing a run to score. The next hitter, Adam Eaton, hit a dribbler back to the mound that Eflin did get cleanly and shuffled to Wilson Ramos on time to get an out (one that required replay to confirm). Then, just when we all thought Eflin would get out of it by inducing a fly ball from Trea Turner, Hoskins misjudged it, allowing another runner to score, making it 4-2.

It would stay that way until the 6th inning when once again, Eflin struggled. He walked Difo to start the inning, then allowed him to steal second on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Strasburg. He was successful on the next attempt, sending Difo to third and ending Eflin’s night. Luis Avlián was brought on to face Eaton as a lefty on lefty matchup. It ended poorly as Eaton dumped one in between Hoskins and Quinn, scoring Difo and making it 5-2.

In the bottom of the inning, Ramos led off with a single and was followed up by another single by Asdrubel Cabrera. One problem, though. Ramos tried to go to third. He was promptly thrown out by Eaton. The reaction was swift.

It ended what could have been a decent threat by the Phillies and took any fight out of the team, making outcome of the game feel all but inevitable. Sure, Hoskins hit a home run in the eighth off of Ryan Madson, but the error by Eflin and the brutal base running by Ramos (bad hamstrings or no), there just seemed to be no fight in the team whatsoever. It all ended with a whimper in the 9th as the team went down 1-2-3, making the final score 5-3.

They’ll try and take another game from Max Scherzer tomorrow night, sending their own ace to the hill in Aaron Nola. Hopefully, they remember to drink a Red Bull or five tomorrow night before the game starts.

Game Notes

  • None really. This game was boring to watch. I just wanted a reason to share this: