Well that didn’t work.
After the Phillies fought back to take a ninth inning lead in a game they should have been leading by five anyway, Joaquin Benoit took his first blown save of the year in a series-ending 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday on a three-run, walk-off Bryce Harper home run that seemed about as predestined as anything you’ll see.
Momentum-wise, it was the absolute worst thing that could have happened with the Phils staring down a three-game series in Queens with the New York Mets, the team that man-handled the Phillies last week without breaking a sweat.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Let’s not say “expect” and instead say “legitimately fear” another beat-down. At least the Phillies get a better run of pitching matchups than they had last week, but it seemed like it wouldn’t have mattered if the Mets suddenly brought up their entire double-A Binghamton rotation for that series at Citizens Bank Park. Coming into Citi Field for this mid-week series, the Phillies have to figure out how to get some runs on the board because even if they were hitting against Binghamton, this offense isn’t scaring anyone right now.
Tuesday at 7:10 p.m., Zach Eflin (season debut) vs. Zack Wheeler (1-1, 7.45 ERA)
The longtime battle of the correct way to spell “Zach/k” comes in the first game, with Eflin taking over Clay Buchholz’s rotation spot. Buchholz made a lot of people rich in the “Who gets hurt first in the Phils rotation?” pool since everyone else put their money on Vince Velasquez. But it marks opportunity for Eflin, who alternated between “disaster” and “highly passable” in his major league debut in 2016.
With Buchholz now likely out the rest of the season, Eflin is now the first to get a chance at the vacant rotation spot. He’s going to have to prove himself since there are other very viable, deserving options who probably would sell their non-pitching arm to have the opportunity Eflin has.
Wednesday at 7:10 p.m., Vince Velasquez (0-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. Robert Gsellman (0-1, 9.28 ERA)
This isn’t the start anyone wanted for Vinny. Two starts, and everything looks the same as it ever was, with Velasquez being wild, running up pitch counts and just taking too long to get guys out. That’s allowing hitters to sit back and wait for the heat, and they’re connecting. Everyone has a theory, everyone has a solution with what to do with him, we shall see if any of them come to fruition.
Now, these two starts have come against the Nationals and Mets, that’s likely a big part of it. But my brother actually suggested sending him down to Clearwater for a month to work with Roy Halladay. And you know what? It didn’t sound like a completely ridiculous idea. Time for Vinny to step it up.
Thursday at 7:10 p.m., Aaron Nola (1-0, 3.27 ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.95 ERA)
The Phillies missed Thor last week, but they’ll get him Thursday. And you know what? I’m looking forward to this because Nola has looked pretty good so far. These guys could end up facing each other 15 times or more through the next six years or so, and it could be a really fun little personal rivalry that everyone’s talking about.
Right now, it doesn’t look like a good match-up for the Phillies just because Thor is pitching like he actually is from Asgard, but we may be able to tell a lot about Nola’s overall character from how he handles this game. Count me in right now as someone who thinks he’s going to handle it swimmingly.