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Mr. Nola’s Wild Ride: Padres 4, Phillies 3

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Aaron Nola (mostly) hurled a gem but instead the awful defense denies him glory.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Even if this recap was just rehashing things that happened in this game with no further discussion, it would still be one of the more memorable (and frustrating) games the Phillies have played in a while. Let’s take a quick trip down the line and remember what happened:

  • Aaron Nola took a perfect game into the 7th inning.
  • The Phillies took the lead in a tie game following two bases-loaded HBPs.
  • Aaron Nola had a career-high pitch count and went the distance in 9 full innings.
  • Jake Cronenworth, who beat out Alec Bohm to become 2020 NL Rookie of the Year, hit a dramatic 2-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th.
  • The bottom of the 10th saw one of the most ridiculous rundown plays in recent memory.

But you come to our humble blog for more than just basic recitations. Let’s dig into yet another in a long series of winnable games that the Phillies ultimately flushed down the tubes.

First things first, Aaron Nola was masterful tonight. Facing his brother Austin, San Diego’s starting catcher, and with his parents in the stands, he mowed down 18 Padres batters in a row, struck out 11, and allowed only 2 earned runs. Pretty damn good! Each year, he seems to have a pretty rough go of it on the road, with his incredible 2018 season being the sole exception, so unmitigated success in hostile territory was quite refreshing to see, given that each of his 2021 starts evidently induces an identity crisis. And even though he lost the perfect game and then the no-hitter, Nola was still two strikes away from a complete game 1-hit victory. Until, that is, the consequences of one bad pitch to Jake Cronenworth were magnified by the defensive incompetence of his teammates.

We need to discuss the elephant in the room, so let’s talk about Brad Miller. (This sentence works on two levels because elephants reportedly like to eat bamboo.) His 7th inning error was so infuriating and pivotal that I almost titled this recap “Miller’s Boner.” Miller slapping away Trent Grisham’s hit towards first base changed the direction of this game: if Miller makes the out, then the Padres likely don’t tie the game in the inning, and the Phillies probably go on to win. Instead, Grisham comes around to score thanks to an RBI single from Manny Machado, and Cronenworth’s eventual homer ties the game in the 9th, which leads to extra innings and yet another embarrassment on defense.

In fairness, we cannot let the offense off the hook. Their once-mighty bats combined for a paltry 3 runs on 4 hits, 2 of which were scored on bases-loaded HBPs in the top of the 8th inning. The Phillies have apparently forgotten how to hit, which is a massive liability as the last month of the regular season beckons. As the Padres demonstrated, many problems can be solved when you score more runs than the other team.

And all of this is before the absolutely atrocious late-innings defense by Andrew Knapp. I can’t even begin to describe what was happening with that rundown that ended with tagging out Wil Myers, so instead we’ll all take a gander on the wild pitch that led to a Padres walk-off win.

Yikes!

If this were a playoff game, a future installment of Ken Burns’ Baseball would have it front-and-center, but for now it will have to live in infamy in our hearts only. The Phillies fall to 62-61, and the Braves’ victory over Baltimore drops them to a full 5 games back in both the NL East and the Wild Card race, while the Padres are now tied for the second Wild Card spot. The Phils will aim to take the series tomorrow afternoon. What a first day for Pat McCarthy.