According to legend, members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins - the NFL’s last team to record an undefeated season - hold a champagne toast each year once every team has suffered a loss. As far as I know, no such tradition exists in baseball, mainly because a team has yet to survive a season without a loss. In fact, no team has even come close.
As Wednesday’s game entered the bottom of the eighth inning, you started to believe that the Phillies might be up to the task. The Phillies had made a rousing comeback, and it felt like they were going to win. It felt like they might not lose a game all season.
Spoiler alert: They lost.
Early on, it appeared as if a rout was in order. The Phillies scored two in the first, and with Aaron Nola on the mound, that’s usually enough to win. However, Nola suffered through a rare poor start, and when he left the game after the third, the Phillies were trailing 6-2.
Against this Phillies lineup, a four run lead is not safe. It’s nowhere near safe. The Phils chipped away with two runs in the fourth, and then four more in the eighth. The biggest blow was a bases loaded triple by Andrew McCutchen.
Andrew McCutchen with the bases-loaded double pic.twitter.com/7jps5zP4lZ— 2008 Phillies (@2008Philz) April 3, 2019
Phillies fans were busy preparing variations on smug “5-0” tweets, but the bullpen didn’t cooperate. In the bottom of the eighth, Seranthony Dominguez ran into some trouble, and allowed a run on a Yan Gomes double. It looked like he was going to escape further damage when Adam Eaton hit a two-out comebacker to the mound.
Dominguez fielded the ball, gathered himself, and threw to first base, where Rhys Hoskins just kind of missed it. Gomes came around to score, and the Phillies found themselves in a tie game.
After failing to answer back in the top of the ninth, the Phillies brought in David Robertson to hopefully extend the game. The offseason acquisition has not been sharp in the early going, and on Thursday, he was especially not sharp. He gave up a leadoff single to Anthony Rendon, and then walked the next three batters. Very few of the pitches were even close to the strike zone, and the eventual game-loser felt more inevitable than anything.
Considering Robertson’s struggles thus far, and how obvious it was that he was not right, it’s worth questioning why Kapler didn’t pull him in favor of Pat Neshek.
After Tuesday night’s spectacle, Bryce Harper was much less central to the action on Wednesday afternoon. There was a smaller crowd, so the reaction to him was more subdued. The Nats also took care not to let him beat them, walking him three times, twice intentionally.
The Phillies will have a day off to stew in this defeat and the lost opportunity for an undefeated season. It’s a little sad, but just remember: 161-1 would be impressive too.