Game 1 – Phillies lose 4-3
After a rough visit to Chicago, the Phillies were looking to turn things around at home starting with Nationals. Monday night at Citizens Bank Park was a pitchers duel with Jeremy Hellickson facing off against Tanner Roark.
The Phillies were able to manufacture a run in the second inning without recording a hit. Cesar Hernandez walked, stole second, and got to third on a wild pitch with one out. Tyler Goeddel worked a seven pitch walk to make it first and third for Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson was able to lay a beauty of a bunt down the first base line and Hernandez scored easily on the safety squeeze. The Nats evened things up with a Daniel Murphy HR to right field, who’s hitting an incredible .395 at the end of May. Freddy Galvis broke the 1-1 tie with a solo shot to right field in the bottom of the sixth.
Jeremy Hellickson was fantastic. He was mixing his fastball, changeup, and curveball very effectively to produce a lot of wild swings from Nationals hitters. Hellickson was able to strand a runner at third base with one out in the second by striking out Anthony Rendon and getting Wilson Ramos to line out to a leaping Ryan Howard at first. Hellickson was also the beneficiary of another Tyler Goeddel fly-ball double-play in left field. After he plunked Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy lined out to left and Tyler Goeddel threw a seed to Ryan Howard to double off Harper. The next batter Ryan Zimmerman tripled but Hellickson was able to get out of the inning by getting Rendon to ground out to third. Hellickson’s final line: 7IP, 3H, 1ER, 0BB, 8Ks.
Hellickson handed the ball to Hector Neris with a 2-1 lead in the 8th. Neris was unable to get out of the inning unscathed. He allowed a 2-out walk to Ben Revere and Jayson Werth followed with an RBI single to tie the game 2-2. Daniel Murphy delivered a 2-run single to right to give Washington a 4-2 lead.
The Phils faced an old friend once again in Jonathan Papelbon. Maikel Franco wasted no time doubling to left. Ryan Howard was next up and traded places with Franco making the score 4-3. Papelbon was able to strikeout Tommy Joseph and Cesar Hernandez and Tyler Goeddel lined out to end the game.
Game 2 – Phillies lose 5-1
Game 2 of this three game set featured another pitchers duel between Aaron Nola and Joe Ross. Both starters were excellent in this one; however, Ross made one fewer mistake. Ross went 7 innings, 3 hits, and allowed just one run (a Cesar Hernandez RBI triple). Nola looked comfortable in his 6 innings but there were certainly two pitches he’d love to have back. He gave up a solo home run to Jayson Werth in the top of the 1st inning and another one to Daniel Murphy (him again) to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the 6th. Danny Espinosa (2-run HR) and Stephen Drew (inside-the-park HR) provided Jonathan Papelbon a 5-1 lead in 9th inning to secure a Nationals win.
Game 3 – Phillies lose 7-2
The 1,000th game at Citizens Bank Park capped off a Nationals sweep. Adam Morgan was tasked with trying to avoid a six game team losing streak against Max Scherzer – a tough task for any pitcher, let alone the struggling Phillies left-hander. As suspected, Scherzer was dominant tonight – going 8 innings and striking out 11. Adam Morgan gave up an RBI double in the first inning, a common theme for Phillies pitching lately. Morgan was battling until the 6th when he allowed a 3-run HR to Wilson Ramos and a solo shot to Danny Espinosa which extended the Nats lead to 6-0. Washington added another run in top of the 7th but Scherzer gave 2 back in the bottom of the frame thanks to a 2-run HR from Tyler Goeddel.
While the city was excited when the Phillies were rolling at 24-17, I warned fans that the Phils would be tested late May and June. The end of this Nationals series marks the halfway point of their “test” and the Phillies have failed it so far. They didn’t play that poorly in Detroit but at least one aspect of their game faltered in the two games they lost. In Chicago, there’s way to sugarcoat it: the Phillies were overmatched. Chicago has better pitching and obviously a more potent lineup that beat the Phils handily in the three game sweep. Against Washington, the bats were still nowhere to be found. They scored a total of 6 runs in the three game series.
The offense has been the most frustrating part to watch during this stretch. Over the last 9 games, the opposing starters have reached the 7th inning 7 times. It’s an indication that the offense makes quick outs, and are not working the counts. The incompetence of the offense has been exposed against the better teams and has made it impossible to sustain those low-scoring one-run victories we saw earlier in the season. With such a poor offense, the Phils have no margin for error.
As mentioned earlier, this is just the halfway point of the tough schedule. Take that how you want. You can be optimistic and hope the Phillies make some adjustments because they play the Cubs and Nationals again, and then Toronto for a home-and-home 4-game set. Or you can be a pessimist and look at the second half as an absolute disaster waiting to happen. So, how are you feeling?