Final Score: Nationals 3, Phillies 2
Nationally, Tuesday’s Washington Nationals-Philadelphia Phillies game will be viewed as the first check on baseball’s new crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances.
And indeed, the seemingly new-found drama between Joe Girardi and Max Scherzer was compelling. Earlier this month, Girardi spoke glowingly about Scherzer’s longevity. Tuesday, he was thrown out of the game after Scherzer stared him down in the Phillies dugout (more on that later in the story).
Though it almost certainly will, the extracurricular activity of Tuesday’s game shouldn’t overshadow the underwhelming performance of the Phillies bats. Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins combined for four hits in the first game of the series, with each homering. The rest of the Phillies lineup didn’t manage a single hit over the first eight innings.
In the home half of the ninth inning, the Phillies did load the bases, only for Hoskins – following a pop-up from Odúbel Herrera – to ground out to end the game.
On a night where Zack Wheeler wasn’t sharp, the Phillies bullpen pitched six scoreless innings of relief, which would have been unthinkable a year ago. But the Phillies wasted that effort, falling to 34-36 on the season.
The Phillies will look to avoid a two-game sweep at the hands of the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon. A struggling Vince Velasquez will get the ball for Joe Girardi, with Erick Fedde set to toe the rubber for Dave Martinez and the Nationals.
- Wheeler struggled with his command in the top of the first inning, throwing 36 pitches, only 22 of which were strikes. RBI singles from Josh Bell and Yan Gomes gave the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. For Wheeler, he allowed as many runs in the top of the first inning as he had in his last three starts combined.
- After the top of the first inning, Wheeler was checked by the home plate umpires for foreign substances, and they found nothing. Scherzer – who is alleged to have had a foreign substance ordered for him in the past – was also checked after the first inning, and nothing was found:
- Wheeler rebounded in the second inning, using just nine pitches to retire the Nationals. Bryce Harper led off the home half of the second inning with a 431-foot shot off of Scherzer, his former teammate:
- With two outs in the top of the third inning, Juan Soto stole second base. J.T. Realmuto’s throw was seemingly in time for there to at least be a play at second base, but Brad Miller wasn’t able to field it cleanly. Soto would then score on an RBI single by Gomes.
- To his credit, Wheeler was able to escape the third without allowing any more runs, though he did load the bases up before inducing an inning-ending ground ball from Victor Robles.
- After being checked by the umpires twice in the first three innings, Joe Girardi asked for Scherzer to be checked in the middle of the fourth inning, which the three-time Cy Young Award winner did not appreciate:
- Following the top of the fifth inning, Scherzer stared in the direction of Girardi as he walked back to the Nationals dugout. Girardi took exception to this, and was ultimately ejected as he came out of the dugout to yell at Scherzer:
- Rhys Hoskins homered with one out in the eighth inning, launching a ball 406 feet for his team-leading 16th home run of the season. This was Hoskins’ second extra-base hit of the game, but just the third overall hit for the Phillies:
- Brad Hand came on to pitch with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and allowed a single that Harper flared into left-center field. He was able to strike Andrew McCutchen out to end the inning, though.
- Alec Bohm doubled to lead off the ninth inning, but the Phillies weren’t able to take advantage of it. Both Odúbel Herrera and Hoskins ultimately came up with the bases loaded, but neither was able to come through.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
- While Zack Wheeler sandwiched in a nine-pitch second inning, he threw 64 combined pitches between the first and third innings, forcing Joe Girardi to pull him after just three. In total, Wheeler gave up six hits and three earned runs over three innings, and 27 of his 73 pitches were balls. His ERA on the season still sits at 2.36, so his National League All-Star spot is all-but assured. It is worth monitoring his workload, though. Wheeler now has thrown 99 1/3 innings, 28 1/3 more than all of 2020.
- Max Scherzer was activated from the injured list Tuesday, and had an eventful return. The seven-time All-Star struck out eight Phillies after five innings of one-run ball, but that will be afterthought tomorrow. The bigger story was that he got checked three times for foreign substances, the final time coming at Joe Girardi’s request. Baseball will seemingly need to find a balance between upholding the integrity of the game – which, to be fair, they’re only just now concerned about doing – and not overdoing it with these checks.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Wednesday, June 23 vs. Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park
- 1:05 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP
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