2019 Postgame Recaps

Yet another bullpen disaster sends spiraling Phillies down to defeat


Juan Soto’s two-out, two-run home run in the top of the 9th inning proved the difference on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Just hard to believe, but yet another catastrophic bullpen meltdown sent the Philadelphia Phillies (47-45) to a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals (49-42) in a nationally televised ball game on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth, 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto slammed a two-run homer off Hector Neris (1-4; three blown saves) to turn a 3-2 lead into a bitter defeat. Sean Doolittle’s 20th save was sketchy, but the Phillies left a runner at second in the home ninth. Reliever Wander Suero (2-4) recorded the win.

Behind pitcher Aaron Nola and clutch outfield defense, the Phillies led throughout before Soto ruined a celebration and increased the Nationals’ second-place lead over the Phillies to 2.5 games. While it was not a virtuoso performance, Nola lowered his ERA to the 3.63 mark.

The Phillies ace escaped constant trouble. The Nationals wasted scoring opportunities in the first inning (first and third), third inning (one-out double), fourth inning (runner on second), and sixth inning (runners on first and second). In the second, Nola was the beneficiary of a sensational throw from right fielder Bryce Harper, who gunned out Victor Robles trying to stretch a double into a triple.

Coming off of last night’s listless 4-0 loss, the Phillies finally dented the scoreboard in the second inning when a double by Cesar Hernandez scored Rhys Hoskins, who had also doubled. Hernandez was then caught stealing, but Maikel Franco drilled a solo home run – his 14th of the season – to double the Phillies advantage.

Franco, who last night stroked three of the Phillies eight hits, increased the home squad’s advantage to 3-0 in the fourth via a sacrifice fly that scored Hoskins.

Nola, meanwhile, notched his first perfect inning in the fifth, highlighted by a brilliant diving catch by center fielder Roman Quinn that ended the frame.

But Nola then struggled in the sixth, surrendering a run-scoring bloop single by Victor Robles. The right-hander finished the inning with 110 pitches and a 3-1 lead.

The Phillies had a golden opportunity to pad their lead in the sixth but left runners at the corners. They did, however, send Washington starter Patrick Corbin’s pitch count to 103, thus opening the gates for two bullpens that have struggled mightily.

Despite two balls hit hard, Tommy Hunter pitched a perfect seventh. Then came a nail-biting eighth. An all-over-the-place Adam Morgan (21 pitches over five batters) was compounded by a two-out error by Franco. The Nationals got a run to pull within 3-2, creating a loud hush among a suddenly concerned crowd.

Enter Neris, who promptly walked pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick. With the bases loaded and two outs, pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki tapped a routine grounder to second. Hernandez uncorked a lousy throw to first, but Hoskins was able to come off the bag, make the catch, and tag the slow-footed Suzuki.

In the ninth, Neris induced two quick outs before Anthony Rendon kept the game alive with a single. Up stepped Soto. On the first pitch, he obliterated an 88.2-mile splitter, sending it out over the left-center field wall.

Two pieces of good news in this one for the Phillies. First, catcher J.T. Realmuto returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s game on the Paternity List following the birth of his daughter. The Phillies All-Star Game rep extended his hitting streak to nine with a single in the fourth inning.

The other bit of good news was receiving a major break when Washington star hurler Max Scherzer (7-0 with an 0.84 ERA over his last nine starts) was placed on the 10-day injured list and replaced by Anibal Sanchez (5-6, 3.66) for tomorrow’s series finale.

Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.57 ERA) takes the hill for the Phillies despite dealing with bone spurs that might help explain his past two abysmal starts (9 earned runs and 17 hits in 12 innings). Then the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with baseball’s best record, visit Citizens Bank Park for four games.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

PHILLIES Aaron Nola: 6 IP, 5 hits, 1 earned, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts. 110 pitches, 73 for strikes.

NATIONALSPatrick Corbin: 6 IP, 6 hits (1 HR), 3 earned, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts. 103 pitches, 68 for strikes.

 

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: JUAN SOTO

At one point, it was a given that it would be Nola. Though not a vintage performance (five hits, four walks, and 110 pitches over six innings), the right-hander did what aces do – he gave the Phillies a terrific opportunity to win. Over his last five games, Aaron Nola has been nothing short of sensational. In 35 2/3 innings, he has surrendered 19 hits, three earned runs, and 12 walks to go along with 43 strikeouts. His ERA over that span is a jaw-dropping 0.76.

But then Soto showed why many regard him as one of the game’s next superstars. The cleanup slugger’s 16th home run was his third hit of the game and upped his RBI total to 59, average to .302, and OPS to the .941 mark.

TICKET IQ NEXT GAME

  • Sunday, July 14, 1:35 EDT versus the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP; WTTM 1680 (Spanish)

 

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