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Well, that could have gone better: Phillies 3, Nationals 4

Heartbreak, and lifelong memories, in Williamsport

2023 Little League Classic: Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Tucked into the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, roughly three hours northwest of Philadelphia, you’ll find Bowman Field in the small city of Williamsport. Officially it’s Muncy Bank Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, and it’s the oldest minor league ballpark in Pennsylvania and the second oldest in the nation. Since 2017 it’s been the site of the annual MLB Little League Classic, an effort by MLB to engage with and attract younger fans to baseball.

Tonight marked the first appearance by the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals at the Little League Classic.

This year’s Little League World Series was exceptionally meaningful with the inclusion of Delco’s own Media Little League team, who went on a tear this year and made everyone in the Delaware Valley so incredibly proud of them. While Rhode Island went on to eliminate Media today, it did nothing to diminish the glory of their remarkable feat and the honor they earned. How amazing it must have been for this Little League team to have the likes of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Trea Turner in the stands celebrating them. The entire day was filled with moments these kids will never forget.

It reminds you of how much fun baseball is.

Brandon Marsh returns

Earlier in the day the Phillies announced that Brandon Marsh had been recalled from Lehigh Valley after a stint on the 10-day IL stemming from a knee injury when he slammed against the center field wall. Rojas got to watch the game from the bench tonight while Marsh covered center field and Jake Cave took over in left field.

Oh the pain

The Nationals have lately been described as scrappy. Competent and serious about winning is more accurate. Since the All-Star break they are winning series after series, and have won more games so far this year than they did in all of 2022. Trevor Williams, who gave up five earned runs over 4.1 innings to the A’s on August 13th and six earned runs over 4.2 innings in the start before that against the Phillies, tonight managed to keep the Phils scoreless with only two hits through six innings.

Zack Wheeler, who wasn’t originally scheduled to pitch tonight until Ranger Suarez was scratched and moved to the IL, started the game by giving up hits to the first five consecutive batters he faced: CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas, Joey Meneses, Kelbert Ruiz, Dominic Smith.

And just like that the Nationals were up 4-0 in the bottom of the first. Wheeler didn’t record his first out until Stone Garrett struck out swinging. The bleeding stopped there. In fact, that marked the end of all scoring until the ninth inning.

This horse shared whatever the opposite of a fun fact is:

The game went into the ninth with the Phillies still scoreless. Bryson Stott singled, stole second, and then with two outs Brandon Marsh singled which allowed Stott to score. The Nationals brought in Kyle Finnegan to face Jake Cave. Cave got a hold of a 2-2 4-seam fastball and launched it over the right field fence to make it a single run game.

And then J.T. Realmuto struck out for the final out of the game and the rally died.

After an offensive explosion last night, the bats fell quiet tonight. The Nats made one good defensive play after another. Balls found gloves. There were too many strikeouts. Too many groundouts. Other than a towering double by Castellanos and an impressive bunt and hustle by Stubbs, the offense ran on an empty tank until the ninth inning. By then it was literally a case of too little too late.

It’s these games, and these series, that have the potential to jeopardize the Phillies’ post-season plans.

Up Next

The Phillies are slated to host the San Francisco Giants tomorrow night at 6:40 PM to kick off a three-game series that could help set the trajectory for the wild card race down the line. Aaron Nola (10-8, 4.58 ERA) is scheduled to face off against lefty Scott Alexander (6-2, 4.06 ERA).