There’s a new “worst part” to this season seemingly every night, and tonight, it was the reminder that to the types of writers who believe baseball should be fueled by nothing but fastballs and tobacco spit, Gabe Kapler’s shortcomings in the last six weeks serve as a universal condemnation of what he’s come to stand for, which is, of course, analytics. Gazing out a window for several minutes before hammering this brilliant thought into his typewriter and firing it through a pneumatic tube to an intern for tweeting, was one Washington Post columnist who believes baseball and analytics are different sports. For those now wondering, the end of MLB’s regular season is September 30.
But for now, the Phillies played on against the Nationals, a team they will no longer have to face for the remainder of the 2018 season. Everything that contributed to the unofficial end of the Phillies’ season during yesterday’s double-header sweep was on display here, again, and, once again, they lost. The only difference was, Aaron Nola, the one young player on this team who seems to have sustained his status as a true building block for the future, was on the mound. One of the few surviving positive narratives of 2018 is Nola’s NL Cy Young contention, and outdueling Stephen Strasburg tonight would have gone a long way for his campaign.
Sadly, Nola lasted only five innings tonight. He was removed for pinch hitter Justin Bour in the sixth because Kapler was looking to crack some offense with a runner on first base Jorge Alfaro had been expertly hit by a pitch to get the Phillies’ offensive machine roaring to life. One batter prior, it was J.P. Crawford who’d put the Phillies on the board with a solo shot, one of three hits he’d have on the night, along with some reminders that he’d once been the Phillies’ shortstop of the future.
Who knows what he is now? Manny Machado wants to play shortstop. Scott Kingery should probably get some time at his natural position. And third base—no. No, we can’t let every commentary on this team turn into a summation of its ambiguous future.
Nola struck out his 200th hitter of the season tonight. That was cool, as were Crawford’s three hits. But Nola had a rough first, including a two-run blast surrendered to Bryce Harper, and a bumpy third, featuring a Ryan Zimmerman bomb. All in all, he allowed a walk, six hits, and four earned runs among his five strikeouts, leaving his recently established fan section, the French Quarter in sections 108 and 109, relatively silent. Although that may have also been due to the once again paltry attendance numbers. In a tight Cy Young race, Nola may no longer be in the same conversation as Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer (though his ERA only rose to 2.42). This season.
For the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg had next to no issue keeping the Phillies silent for seven innings (and even threw a pitch that hit everybody behind the plate), and Juan Soto continued his domination of the Phillies with a home run, his third of the series. Speaking of the series, this was the first time the Phillies have been swept since June 1-3. They are now three games over .500 and only a half a game over Washington in the NL East.