If Tuesday’s loss wasn’t the worst loss of the season, it certainly was the stupidest. The thought was that if the Phillies had any hope of moving past that, it would be up to Jake Arrieta to put the team on his back and carry them to victory.
JAKE ARRIETA TO THE RESCUE!— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) August 29, 2018
Arrieta’s line for the evening: 3 innings pitched, four hits, four runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. An ace-like performance it was not.
To his credit, Arrieta did manage to drive in two runs before being knocked out of the game, but that was little consolation to Phillies fans as they stared at a 5-2 deficit in the fifth inning, the specter of a sweep looming ominously in front of them.
The Phillies batters were more resilient than their fans, the majority of whom, based on my Twitter timeline, had already forgotten about the team, and were busy continuing to speculate upon the health of Carson Wentz. The Phillies loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, and with two outs, Carlos Santana came to the plate. Most fans would have been happy for Santana to draw one of his trademark walks in that situation, but to our surprise, he did something even better:
Hello.— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 30, 2018
Can we interest you in a Grand Slamtana™? pic.twitter.com/T2gHMNbQCd
The Phillies were somehow back in the lead. Unfortunately, the Phillies have this pesky little habit of giving up runs immediately after they score them. In the ensuing half-inning, Victor Arano allowed an RBI single to Andrew Stevenson, and the game was tied.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies had two men aboard, and Santana once again came to the plate in a key spot. Could he be the hero for a second time? Nope! He struck out... but Jose Bautista didn’t! He followed Santana’s failure with an RBI single and the Phillies were back on top.
Joey Bats for the lead!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 30, 2018
It's 7-6 Phillies in the 7th. pic.twitter.com/2XiCeEGrHt
The Phillies still needed to record six outs, and Gabe Kapler attempted to throw as many relievers at this problem as possible. First came Pat Neshek, but he allowed a single to the only batter he faced. Luis Avilan was brought in to handle Bryce Harper, and promptly walked him.
With two men on, Kapler called upon Tommy Hunter. Those words have often preceded failure for the Phillies this season, but on Wednesday night, Hunter was up to the task. He induced a double play ball to escape the jam, and for good measure, came back for the ninth, and shut down the Nationals in order to complete the save.
The Phillies avoid the sweep, and all it took was two RBIs from their starting pitcher, a grand slam from their maligned first baseman, a clutch hit from their newest player, and a two inning save from Tommy Hunter. It sounds improbable, but it sounds equally improbable that despite all the heartbreaking and soul crushing losses they’ve suffered this season, they’re still in the thick of playoff contention.