Damn it, J.T. and Brad.
I began writing this recap in the fourth inning of game two, assuming the Phillies were going to get swept by the Nationals in Thursday’s doubleheader. And why wouldn’t I think that? After getting shut down by Max Scherzer in the first game, their bullpen crew put them in an early 7-0 hole in the second, and the team looked like they might as well start selling pieces to other contenders.
But no, thanks to the heroics of J.T. Realmuto and Brad Miller, they pulled off not one, but two comebacks in the second game, salvaging a split on the day, forcing me to basically re-write this thing. On the other hand, their big hits might have kept the Phillies’ hopes of contention alive and prompted their general manager to find reinforcements on the trade market. (For real this time!)
In game one, Max Scherzer said goodbye to the National League East by shutting down the Phillies one last time. I’m just confused why the Nats even let him pitch considering they announced he was being traded to the Padres shortly after the game ended. I guess beating the Phillies was just that important to them.
The only run the Phillies managed was courtesy of a J.T. Realmuto home run. Zack Wheeler pitched well in opposition, but he needed to be near perfect. When he served up a two-run home run to Yan Gomes in the seventh, that was pretty much the ballgame.
For the second game, the Phillies chose to bump Vince Velasquez’s start to Friday, and cover the seven innings with relief pitchers. That turned out to be a really bad idea.
Christopher Sanchez was the first pitcher the Phillies put out there, and he couldn’t even make it out of the first inning. Five batters into the game, the Phillies were faced with a three-run deficit. By the time the third inning was done, the Phillies had gone through three pitchers and were trailing 7-0.
Sadly, early deficits are familiar territory for the Phillies these days, so maybe the hitters feel more comfortable starting off in a hole.
Phillies have trailed by at least four runs in the first four innings in five of their last eight games— Michael Barkann (@MBarkannNBCS) July 29, 2021
Rhys Hoskins got them started with a home run in the third. In the fourth, Andrew McCutchen and Alec Bohm hit back-to-back home runs.
Another McCutchen RBI got them another run in the fifth, but they still trailed by three entering the seventh. But without recently traded closer Brad Hand (although the Phillies already came back against him earlier this week), the Nats were unable to finish them off. A combination of five walks and singles got the Phillies a run, and loaded the bases for Realmuto.
How about a little two-out rally?!— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 29, 2021
To extras we go... pic.twitter.com/EzJLtMsFsH
If not for a fortuitous hop on the overthrow, the Phillies would have won in regulation. Alas, they went to extra innings, where Ryan Zimmerman quickly un-tied it. (It was a good day for longtime Phillies nemeses.)
But the Phillies weren’t out of comebacks, even though it seemed they should have been. In the bottom of the frame, the Phillies had the pitcher’s spot due up third, and no available position players to hit for him. (Please read tomorrow’s series preview for my thoughts on this.) Realizing this, the Nats chose to walk Jean Segura and take their chances against Aaron Nola. Naturally, Nola drew a walk to load the bases.
While it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit if the Phillies squandered this gift, Brad Miller had apparently had enough of this game.
A pitcher drawing a walk setting up a clutch grand slam? Not sure if I’ve ever seen that before!
Thursday’s games showed that the Phillies desperately need pitching help, and they need it as soon as possible. Clutch grand slams and seven-run comebacks are exciting every once in awhile, but for a team that has hopes of the playoffs, it shouldn’t be necessary all the time.