Pitching duels are fun. In this era where starting pitchers typically have trouble making it past the fifth inning, it’s a rare treat to watch two excellent starting pitchers trade zeroes deep into the game. However, as I re-learned on Friday night, watching a pitching duel is more fun when it’s your guy who comes out on top. And on this night, Zack Wheeler was good, but Max Scherzer was better, and the Nationals beat the Phillies 2-1.
Wheeler retired the first nine batters he faced, but a leadoff walk in the fourth bit him, as Josh Bell later doubled the run home. He also allowed a solo home run to Juan Soto in the sixth. Two runs in 7.1 innings is good enough to win most games, but unfortunately, that effort left Wheeler as the losing pitcher on Friday.
The Phillies being who they are, it figured that even under the best of circumstances, they would have had trouble coming anywhere near the 17 runs they scored on Tuesday. But after two consecutive off days, and facing one of the league’s best pitchers? I fully expected them to struggle.
Sure enough, the Phillies spent most of the game not getting on base. They had only six hits in the game, and supplemented that with a lone walk. The only inning they had more than one runner aboard was the fourth when J.T. Realmuto’s RBI single briefly tied the game at one. Aside from that, it was a steady march back to the dugout for Phillies hitters.
In the ninth, we got a brief moment of hope when Rhys Hoskins led off with a double off the fence. But pinch runner Travis Jankowski made an immense blunder by getting picked off second base.
That seemed to take the air out of the Phillies as J.T. Realmuto struck out on the next pitch, and Brad Miller flew out afterwards to end it.
The good news is that none of the other pitchers they’ll face this series are anywhere near as good as Scherzer. So there will be opportunities to score some runs. The bad news is none of the other pitchers they’ll have going are as good as Wheeler, so run prevention may prove to be more of a problem as well.