The Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals began the first game of a doubleheader. The Phillies sit comfortably in the wild-card standings while the Nationals are just looking for growth from their young talent.
After a quick first inning for both Zack Wheeler and Trevor Williams, Keibert Ruiz said it was time for action. Ruiz took a high four-seam fastball to left field for an early 1-0 lead.
File it in the SENT folder, folks pic.twitter.com/aNHUiI8VvJ— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 8, 2023
The trouble wouldn’t stop there, Wheeler left a cutter in the middle of the plate to Jake Alu for a one-out single. The next batter, Ildemaro Vargas, reached base on an infield chopper after Wheeler couldn’t get the ball out of his glove.
The threat wouldn’t amount to extra damage on the scoreboard with a Blake Rutherford fielder’s choice and Alex Call going down looking on a perfectly located sweeper on the outside part of the plate.
Since the start of July, CJ Abrams is hitting .322 with a .880 OPS. He lead off today with a deep fly ball to center that was hit 105.4 mph with a .820 projected batting average (xBA).
Abrams would get rewarded for a great swing his next time up. To lead off the third inning, he took a cutter in the right-center field gap for a leadoff double, again with an exit velocity of over 100 mph.
Lane Thomas then caught an inside sinker to grow the Nationals’ lead.
take 395N and you'll hit the Express Lane outta here pic.twitter.com/B2hLZXA5oS— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 8, 2023
Wheeler’s fastball just didn’t have the life it usually does, sitting around 93-95 in the third.
It didn’t take long to answer back. Johan Rojas’s speed continues to make a difference on both ends. He spikes a ball into the ground at third but Vargas has to rush the throw for any chance of an out. The throw eats up Smith at first and gets by him, allowing Rojas to take second base.
Ruiz’s home run earlier showed the ball was going to carry to right field. Kyle Schwarber and Alec Bohm took full advantage.
The bigger story of the third inning was the first base umpire. First, Nick Castellanos beat out an infield grounder but was initially called out.
Mike Calitri gave Rob Thomson the challenge signal and in about ten seconds Castellanos was called safe. Williams threw over to first a pitch later and Castellanos was called out again. Calitri again gave Thomson the challenge signal and about ten seconds later, Castellanos was back at first.
The Phillies continued to hit Williams around in the fourth. First, Trea Turner roped a double down the left field line with one out. Jake Cave hit a single to put runners on first and third. Rojas hit an infield chopper that forced Turner into a rundown but it wouldn’t matter.
Schwarber struck again.
Wheeler gutted another two innings to complete his outing. He struggled with command early and found his fastball again to sit closer to 95-96. He muscled six innings to help save the bullpen for game two.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cave got a high fastball off Amos Willingham and crushed it to straightaway center field.
Luis Ortiz, who was activated today as the 27-man for the doouble header, entered the eighth inning with a five-run lead. Trouble began immediately with an infield single from Joey Meneses.
Smith then lined a double into center field, followed by a Ruiz single to make it 8-4.
Whatever Pitching Coach Caleb Cotham said when he came out from the dugout seemed to work.
Ortiz struck out Alu on three straight curveballs, forced a pop-up from Vargas, and got Rutherford to groundout.
To save high-leverage arms like Gregory Soto, Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Domínguez, and Craig Kimbrel, Thomson brought Ortiz back out for the ninth to wrap up the win.
Johan Rojas continued to flash his star potential with this great grab in center.
Just another routine play for Johan Rojas. Catch probability on this one: 10 percent. pic.twitter.com/0WS6pBp19A— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) August 8, 2023
Ranger Suárez gets the ball against Nationals All-Star Josiah Gray in game two of the doubleheader. The game should start around 7:15 or 7:20.