Final score: Nationals 3, Phillies 1
It’s no secret that starting pitching is at the top of the Phillies’ wish list at the trade deadline. It’s a need that has been onset by contributions from everyone in the Phillies’ rotation — everyone, that is, except for one.
That one would be Zack Wheeler, far and away the Phillies’ top starter this year and a contender for the National League Cy Young Award. No matter who the Phillies add before Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline, his are the starts the Phillies have to win regularly over the season’s final two months.
That’s why Thursday’s 3-1 loss — which dropped the Phillies to 50-51 and, temporarily, 4 1/2 games out of first in the NL East — stung a little extra. Wheeler wasn’t his best, but despite a crushing go-ahead homer in the final inning, he was effective enough to give the offense a chance. They just couldn’t take it.
The Phillies started the game on quite a positive note from a defensive standpoint. Jean Segura started a nifty double play against Josh Bell on a ball to his right that initially seemed like he’d only be able to get one, but in the bottom half of the frame, the Phillies couldn’t cash in on two consecutive one-out walks against Scherzer.
A leadoff double from Josh Harrison plus some textbook manufacturing led to an early Nationals lead in the second. Andrew McCutchen couldn’t quite get enough behind his throw on a sacrifice fly from Gerardo Parra, but it would’ve been a tough play regardless.
The Phillies’ second 4-6-3 double play of the game was less flashy though perhaps more significant than the first; it got Wheeler out of a first-and-second, one-out jam against Josh Bell in the third. Bryce Harper stayed red hot in the bottom half of the frame, smoking a two-out double, but McCutchen grounded out to end the threat and keep the Nationals ahead.
J.T. Realmuto, who entered the at bat in a pedestrian 3-for-27 rut, roped a 111-mph solo homer to lead off the fourth and tie things up. It was Realmuto’s 11th homer of the season. Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia noted that it was his second home run to left field in the last week after having pulled zero since May 3. Didi Gregorius followed up with a hit by pitch — notably, a fastball on his right elbow — but the Phillies couldn’t convert, ending the inning with an Odúbel Herrera double play.
Things got dicey in the sixth when another Harrison double put two runners in scoring position with two outs. Wheeler got out of it, however, inducing a grounder that Brad Miller fielded well behind the first base bag before diving to tag first just before Luis García could get there.
After Harper drew his second walk of the day to lead off the sixth and McCutchen subsequently grounded into a double play, the Nationals made the Phillies pay. Yan Gomes smoked a two-run shot off Wheeler to put Washington up 3-1 the play after a misguided dive attempt by Herrera put the leadoff runner on second. Herrera eventually struck out to cap off a 1-2-3 ninth and the 3-1 loss.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Max Scherzer: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO, 88 pitches
If Thursday was indeed Scherzer’s last start as a National — and expectations are that it will be — the final one went a lot like many of the first 188. Scherzer perhaps wasn’t entirely dominant, as he had to work out a few jams, but the bottom line is that he made big pitches when he needed to. The home run to Realmuto was his only big mistake of the game, as he lowered his ERA to 2.76 on the season and 2.80 in his Nationals career.
Zack Wheeler: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO, 100 pitches
Much like Scherzer, Wheeler wasn’t dominant, but he made pitches when he needed to — until the seventh inning. His 95-mph fastball right down the middle to Gomes was one he’d certainly like back, but as it is, the righty suffered his sixth loss of the season and raised his ERA to 2.45.
Phillies Nugget Of The Game
If Scherzer is traded out of the NL East before the deadline, the Phillies will certainly be a beneficiary. After Thursday, the righty has compiled a career 2.55 ERA against Philadelphia.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Thursday, July 29 vs. Washington Nationals, doubleheader Game 2
- Citizens Bank Park
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP
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