Sweeping a three game series is hard.
Sweeping a four game series is harder still.
Sweeping a scheduled five game series, however rare they may be, is even harder than that. The Phillies had a chance to do so today and couldn’t pull it off, succumbing to the Nationals on the final game of the five games. There was little offense by the team, but they were surprisingly overpowered by a call up from Washington’s farm system.
Starting the game a little earlier than usual, the offense had some trouble getting started while the Nationals did their damage to starter Zach Eflin early. In the second inning, Eflin allowed a leadoff double to Luis Garcia, followed by a single to Maikel Franco that knocked in the first Washington run. Yadiel Hernandez followed that with a double that didn’t score the slow footed Franco and gave the Phillies a chance to get out of the inning any further unscathed. Lane Thomas grounded to third, followed by a strikeout of Cesar Hernandez for the second out. Then Rob Thomson made the curious decision to pitch to Juan Soto with a base open and two outs. Soto would make them pay with a shot to the upper deck that gave the Nationals a 4-0 lead.
Eflin would exit after the second inning with a knee issue that, postgame, Thomson said was planned, but still meant the team had to use their bullpen early and often. Offensively, they got two in the second inning when Alec Bohm knocked in J.T. Realmuto on an RBI ground out, followed by a Bryson Stott single, but that was as close as they would get.
In a reversal of the past few games, it was the Nationals that feasted on the underbelly of the Phillies’ bullpen, scoring twice in the fourth, twice in the fifth and one more for good measure in the seventh. Nothing was really working for the bullpen, which saw some further fears with Corey Knebel come to fruition. Brought in for mop-up/keep them close duty in the fourth, he walked in a run in that inning, then allowed two more in the fifth inning to basically seal the game. If he is unusable in even those kinds of situations, what is the team exactly going to do with him?
Taking four of five from the Nationals is almost the bare minimum of what they had to do. After watching them play this weekend, it does feel a bit disappointing they didn’t win all five, but if the team was only going to use Eflin for three innings today as Thomson indicated, perhaps a win would have just been icing on the cake. They took care of business, now they have to go to Texas and San Diego and do the same.