Two nights of moist, soupy weather this week forced the Phillies and Nationals to turn a four-game series into three games in two days. On Wednesday, the division rivals squared off in a doubleheader in which the Phillies managed to score two (2) total runs. They lost both games.
Pretty much everything you don’t like about Phillies baseball in 2019 happened in the span of nine hours: Sputtering offense, players very capable of home runs failing to hit home runs, bullpen arms giving up runs, people getting hurt. Cole Irvin showed up in game one and bled runs until somebody stuffed him in a locker. Pat Neshek came back from the injured list in game two, gave up a home run to Victor Robles, and then went right back on the injured list. The Phillies offense left a combined 14 runners on base and went 0-for-12 with RISP. We also got to revisit the “hustle” narrative when Jean Segura didn’t run out of the box after hitting a single. And naturally, game two gave every fawning Nationals media member the chance to empty their thesauruses while describing Max Scherzer’s admittedly very real immortality.
If it weren’t for another Scott Kingery home run in game one and a surprisingly effective Jake Arrieta in game two, you’d probably have nothing to tell yourself to maintain your classically positive Philadelphian outlook.
Zach Eflin tried to keep pace with a fully weaponized Patrick Corbin in the afternoon game, and didn’t put up a bad line: 3 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB in 6 IP. But his lineup, outside of Kingery and Cesar Hernandez and a pinch hit Brad Miller triple, whiffed and waggled ineffectively at Corbin for seven innings while Irvin came on in relief and threw BP to the Washington lineup. The Phillies lost, 6-2.
But with two games on the docket, the Phillies barely had anytime to sweat the loss before they had to be back on the field to face Scherzer. As we had waited on Monday and Tuesday for the radar to be clear of its more alarming colors, Scherzer had bunted a batting practice pitch off his face and showed up for game two looking like somebody had kicked his ass.
But nobody kicks Max Scherzer’s ass. He kicks your ass. And he kicked the Phillies’ asses—all nine of them—up and down Nationals Park in the night game.
Almost every time the Phillies came to the plate, Scherzer slapped them down. Scott Kingery? SLAP. Bryce Harper? SLAP. Rhys Hoskins? SLAP. Brad Miller and, uh, Andrew Knapp? SLAP SLAP SLAP SLAP, probably while laughing. Sure, the Phillies squeaked a few hits out here and there, and Scherzer only went seven innings. Who cares?
You know what’s a bad sign for Maikel Franco? That in an entire doubleheader, Kapler didn’t have a single use for Maikel Franco.
It’s easy to point at the schedule and say there’s plenty of season left—there is. It’s entirely possible this team finds its way and gets hot on a level it had thus far failed to reach. The Phillies, at some point, do something. But I guess my personal frustrations here lie in the fact that I never thought this team would remind me so much of the 2018 version, so early and for so long. We can argue about what this team needs and what its ultimate fate will be, but the fact that this is happening now and not in September means that they will probably do at least one more something to try and improve themselves, and whatever that is can’t come soon enough.
Because the Braves beat the Mets on Wednesday, 7-2, while the Phillies lost twice. They are now four games back in the NL East, a .500 record creeping ever closer.