For about three hours, this was supposed to be a recap about the Phillies’ above-average defense, Aaron Nola’s impressive night, and a much-needed victory heading into Sunday’s matinee against the Washington Nationals.
Juan Soto had other plans.
This was a heartbreaker. The Phillies, the team in desperate need of a win, had a second chance to make a first impression coming out of the break. They did not do that.
Instead, this game had all the hallmarks of the 2019 Phillies. The offense looked competent for a few innings, worked some counts, and put early runs on the board. Nola was Nola. Then, the ugly side: the offense shut down against the Nats’ bullpen, and the Phillies’ bullpen failed to get the job done.
Hey, let’s take a look at that stellar defense, because these are the two highlights worth talking about from this one:
Roman roamin' center field pic.twitter.com/DGPmbfsOxo— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 14, 2019
Harper prevented Robles from reaching third on a triple, while Quinn certainly saved an extra-base hit in his own right. Maikel Franco was a vacuum at third base for most of the evening, but struggled to make a play to his left in the 8th inning on a grounder off the bat of Robles. That made it a 3-2 game, and while the Phillies did eventually work their way out of that inning, it meant the big bats were coming up in the 9th against Hector Neris.
Neris did indeed get the Phillies out of that 8th inning, but a 4-out save was the ask from the Phillies’ closer on this night. The mess of an 8th turned into trouble in the 9th, with that top of the order coming up.
Despite getting the first two outs, things went awry. Anthony Rendon laced a sharp single to left, and up stepped Soto, who launched a mammoth shot to left-center to put the Nats in front 4-3.
The Phillies got Roman Quinn into scoring position in the 9th, but Andrew Knapp flew out to center to end the game, just another frustrating part of the evening. The Phillies could have used Adam Haseley or Brad Miller in the 9th against Sean Doolittle, but opted for Knapp to get a right vs. left matchup. It did not work out in the end, and lately, so many things seem to be not working out for this team.
The end result tonight is wasting Aaron Nola’s 6-inning, 1-earned effort. He struck out nine in the process. He did walk four, and the Nats made him work, but he was sharp for most of the evening.
Now, the Phillies turn to a starting pitcher Sunday whose elbow could detach from his arm at any moment. It’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling when you need a win in the worst way, but the Phillies need something out of Jake Arrieta in the final game. If they don’t get it, the questions will continue to mount, and the march towards .500 will be nearly complete.