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MLB: Game Two-New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Fewer strikeouts, please
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Attrition: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

What if they created a playoff spot, but nobody wanted it?

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In previous series previews, I wrote that the Phillies had the talent necessary to make the playoffs. This isn’t like past seasons when the rotation consisted of quad A starters, or the bullpen contained zero reliable arms. And while the current lineup might have some guys who clearly aren’t at full strength, the backs of their baseball cards say that this team should be able to score plenty of runs.

The Phillies have no excuses for missing the playoffs, but they seem intent on doing so anyway.

The only good news is that their competition for the National League’s third card spot, the Milwaukee Brewers, doesn’t seem eager to seize the opportunity either. MLB created an additional playoff spot to theoretically maintain excitement for more teams down the stretch, but neither the Phillies nor Brewers are doing much to prove that they deserve to be part of baseball’s postseason.

The Phillies are scheduled for four games against the Washington Nationals, a team that has already racked up over 100 losses, and whom the Phillies have dominated this year. We should be full of confidence that the Phillies will take care of business this weekend. But after seeing them fail against the Cubs, why should anyone feel confident about the Phillies succeeding against anyone?

If that wasn’t enough, thanks to Hurricane Ian, it’s expected to rain most of the weekend in Washington, and the schedule for these games has already been thrown into disarray.

Washington Nationals

Record: 54-101 (Fifth place in National League East, 43.5 games back)

The last time they met

The Nats came to Philadelphia earlier this month and lost all three games, dropping their record against the Phillies to 2-13 on the season.

Since then?

The Nationals have gone 5-9, which is actually an improvement over how they’ve played for most of the season.

Game by game preview

Game 1: Friday, 1:05 PM - Bailey Falter vs. Erick Fedde

The Phillies’ offense is struggling. They seem to only be capable of hitting singles, and as soon as they get a runner on base, the following hitters act as if they are contractually obligated to swing at one of the first two pitches, no matter where it is located.

The Phillies will be facing Erick Fedde in this game, and if they can’t score a lot of runs off of him, they’re simply not scoring a lot of runs for the rest of the season. (Unless of course they get eliminated early. I fully expect the lineup to come to life at that point.) Fedde has an ERA of 5.34 on the season, and in his last three starts against the Phillies, he’s allowed 13 runs over 12.1 innings.

Game 2: Friday, 7:05 - Noah Syndergaard vs. TBD

This game is scheduled to be played on Friday night, but based on current weather reports, that doesn’t seem likely to actually happen. If the game does somehow get played as scheduled, here’s what I see happening: After the bats come alive in the opener, and the Phillies win by double digits, they will go back to struggling in this game. It doesn’t matter that the Nats are probably going with a bullpen game. That will make their struggles all the more frustrating to watch.

Game 3: Saturday, 1:05 PM - Kyle Gibson vs. Anibal Sanchez

There’s a good chance that this game will end up as part of a doubleheader on Sunday since the rain isn’t supposed to let up at all on Saturday. That means we might get to end our weekend by watching a Kyle Gibson start late on Sunday night. But don’t worry too much: Based on recent history, Gibson won’t actually be in the game for all that long.

Game 4: Sunday, 1:05 PM - Zack Wheeler vs. Cory Abbott

Abbott has bounced between the rotation and bullpen, mostly because he’s been really bad as a starter, but the Nats aren’t overflowing with rotation depth. In his one previous start against the Phillies, he allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings. I know the Phillies have done surprisingly poorly in Zack Wheeler starts this season, but if the Phillies lose a Zack Wheeler vs. Cory Abbott matchup, they should just forfeit their remaining games.

But what about the Brewers?

In my recap of the Phillies’ game on Thursday, I mentioned that while the loss was ugly, it wasn’t a “gut punch” loss. You want to see what a gut punch loss looks like?

The Phillies might have the weight of history on their shoulders, but the Brewers don’t have a grand tradition of winning either. I’m not saying it’s likely, but I can’t completely rule out the possibility of the Phillies making the playoffs without winning another game the rest of the way.

Maybe they’re due?

The Phillies’ 13-2 record against the Nats seems like a good sign for the Phillies, but even that might work against them. It’s difficult to dominate any team - even one as talent-deprived as the Nats - to that extent. It feels like regression alone should be enough to earn the Nationals a couple of wins in this series.

And yes, these are the thoughts you have when your team hasn’t made the playoffs in eleven years and are watching them collapsing in September for the fifth straight year.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Bobby Abreu (2004) and Ryan Howard (2010) both hit four home runs in one season at Wrigley Field. SLDH was correct.

This series’ question: In their first ever game at Nationals Park, the Phillies were shut out 4-0. The Phillies managed just two extra base hits in the game, and both were doubles by the same player. Who was he?

Non-Phillies thought

The NFL claims that they care about player safety, yet somehow Tua Tagovailoa was allowed to play in the Dolphins game on Thursday night. The play on which he was taken out of the game was one of the ugliest in NFL history, and I will not share a clip of it here.

Closing thought

Anyone out there still optimistic? The only possible basis for optimism is that the Phillies have played like utter crap in other series, and then turned a page immediately afterwards. And also, the Nats have reliably cured pretty much anything that ails the Phillies this season. And also, the Brewers are by no means a lock to win enough games to take the spot from them.

Wait, why am I doing this to myself?

2022 player report card: Nick Maton

Rise and Phight: 11/29/2022

2022 player report card: Mark Appel