The Phillies have been playing without an offense, to the point that in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Nationals, they were in danger of losing their fourth straight home game. And soon enough, they were losing it.
The Nationals, facing Jake Arrieta and Gabe Kapler armed with 15 relievers, got to work in the second, when Arrieta issued a free pass to Anthony Rendon and the next batter, Juan Soto, drove him in for early 1-0 lead. In the top of the fourth, Soto decided he wasn’t done with Arrieta yet and knocked a two-run shot that made it 3-0.
The typically corpse-like Phillies came to life for a five-run fifth that gave them a narrow lead. Nick Williams led off with a double, and with he and Odubel Herrera on base, Kapler started fiddling. He swapped out Scott Kingery for pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera who doubled in Williams. Justin Bour, being used appropriately, was deployed as a pinch hitter for Arrieta to keep the offense going, but he popped out.
It was then, with two outs, that the Phillies sprung into action in exactly the way for which they are not known. Cesar Hernandez singled. Rhys Hoskins doubled. Wilson Ramos singled. Carlos Santana doubled. It was their first five-run outburst since July, and it was enough to finally chase Washington starter Tanner Roark from the game. Jose Bautista made a little bit of history in the eighth to tack on a run and amke it 6-3.
There was a casualty to this madness, however, as Maikel Franco, pursuing a foul pop-up, took a terrific spill into the third base camera well, face first. Despite the umpire frantically waving for a trainer, he was able to walk away, but left the game.
Replay of Maikel Franco going flipping over the camera well. https://t.co/PErrV3PJIX— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 12, 2018
Arrieta lasted five innings, striking out seven, and walking two. Kapler hadn’t quite emptied the bullpen in game one, but had plenty of game left to make sure everyone saw some action today: This time, it was Pat Neshek, Edubray Ramos, and Luis Avilan.
Seranthony Dominguez has had trouble this season after being left in for one inning. But Kapler seemed resolute in his belief that the young hurler could get away with two consecutive frames. He got through the first, as he usually does. But Dominguez was undone by walks in his second frame, letting Anthony Rendon reach—Rendon was 0-for-1 on the day, yet scored three runs. So, yeah. Walks were a problem today.
Dominguez fired a wild pitch at the screen, sending Rendon to second, and then walked Juan Soto. With one out, Matt Wieters worked Dominguez to the bone before punching a single that made it 6-4.
This is really when the fun began.
With two outs, Pedro Florimon, playing shortstop instead of actual shortstop J.P. Crawford, fell on an Andrew Stevenson grounder that, not being a skilled shortstop, he was unable to convert into an out. A run scored. 6-5.
Then, not knowing what else to do at this point, Dominguez—still in the game—walked Adam Eaton, his third free pass of the inning.
Don’t worry, the walks aren’t over. Luis Garcia came into the game to face Trea Turner, a man who he had come in to face in game one of the doubleheader and had—you guessed it—walked him. Liking how that had gone, apparently, Garcia walked Turner again, only this time with the bases loaded to tie the game. The Nationals had rallied from 6-3 to tie the game by hitting two balls out of the infield.
There was a moment in this game, in the bottom of the ninth, when J.P. Crawford, the Phillies’ missing shortstop, escaped from the broom closet and actually got an at-bat. If Crawford could have walked this game off, there was the slimmest of chances the day could be salvaged on multiple levels. He did not. And the game went on.
But not for long. Once again, Soto showed what a young star can do the following inning with a solo shot that gave his team the lead, his fourth RBI of the day.
The Phillies don’t have a Juan Soto. They don’t even have whatever Scott Kingery was supposed to be. What they did have, at the end of the day, were two more losses in a playoff race from which they have been eliminated in every way except mathematically.
But it’s not even about the post season now. The Phillies aren’t going to the post season. This team is a joyless, malformed version of its fresh spring self, bleeding walks and runs and coughing up leads. And ending the season like that is enough to make you sick.