The host Washington Nationals are beginning to look like the team that everyone predicted would win the NL East easily, and the Phillies are proving to be the perfect tonic for what was ailing the previously struggling D.C.-based club.
The Nats whipped the Phils by 7-2 on Friday night, sending the already beaten and demoralized Philly team to their 6th straight defeat. For the Nationals, it was their own 3rd straight victory, their 4th in the last 6 games.
The Phils fell behind almost immediately in the bottom of the first inning, when starter Sean O’Sullivan (0-1) yielded a single to Nationals’ leadoff man Yunel Escobar, and then hit Ian Desmond with a pitch. He coaxed Jayson Werth into a fly ball out, but Bryce Harper followed by driving a 3-run homer to centerfield, his 3rd of the year, to put Washington up 3-0.
With that deficit, the Phillies are going to lose most nights. They entered the game averaging fewer than 2 1/2 runs scored per game. But they did get one back in the top of the third, thanks to the continued electric play of Rule 5 find Odubel Herrera. The new centerfielder ripped a triple to right, and then scored on a Freddy Galvis grounder to 2nd base. At 3-1, it was the closest the Phillies would get on this night.
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The Nats got that run back quickly when Danny Espinosa led off the bottom of the 4th with his 2nd homerun of the young season, a solo shot to center. Through 5 innings, O’Sullivan had allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits and a pair of walks.
Meanwhile, the best of the Nationals 5-headed starting rotation monster, Max Scherzer (1-0), was mowing down Phillies batters. He allowed just 4 hits through the first 7 innings, striking out 9 and walking none, and aside from the two early Herrera hits was dominating the Phils lineup.
At this point, it had to be comforting to manager Ryne Sandberg, looking down the bench and seeing his late inning bat options as Ben Revere, Andres Blanco, Cesar Hernandez, and Cameron Rupp. I’ve been watching since 1971, so I’ve seen some poor Phillies teams, but this one may be the worst of the worst.
Apr 17, 2015; Washington, DC, USA;
Washington Nationals pitcher Scherzer (31) prepares to throw a pitch in the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park.
Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Whether the Nationals became disinterested, or Gomez was on his game, or both, the Phillies righty settled things down. In 1.2 innings he allowed just 1 hit, striking out 2 and walking none. He was replaced by Jake Diekman with one out in the bottom of the 7th, so that the lefty Diekman could face lefty bat Harper.
Diekman would let the game get out of hand. He walked Harper, stayed in to face the right-handed Ryan Zimmerman, and promptly surrendered a 2-run double to right for the Nats’ veteran. Wilson Ramos then singled past 2nd base, scoring Zimmerman and stretching the Washington lead out to 7-1.
Ken Giles came on to pitch in the bottom of the 8th, as Sandberg must have felt that his bullpen stalwarts needed the work, bringing them in to this lost cause. The young righty flashed his 95-97mph fastball, and despite giving up a pair of singles, he struck out a pair of hitters.
All that was left was to see whether Scherzer could nail down the complete game. Entering the 9th, the Nats righty had thrown 100 pitches, 70 for strikes. Manager Matt Williams decided that was enough, and turned the game over to his bullpen, specifically lefty Felipe Rivero.
Rivero was not great. He allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Hernandez, a two-out infield single to Carlos Ruiz, and a looping rbi single off the bat of Ryan Howard to make it 7-2. That was all the Phils would get.
So the Phillies again went down easily on this road trip. They are now 0-5 on the road on the young season. Again the offense was non-existent, now at 26 runs scored and 78 hits in 11 games, an average of 2.36 runs and 7.09 hits per game. They are tied with Miami for last place in the NL East at 3-8, and we’re not even finished two full weeks yet.
Tomorrow, the Nationals send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound. The big righty has struggled thus far on the young season with an 8.64 ERA, and having allowed 14 hits in 8.1 innings. It would appear that he is about to get a shot of the same elixir that every struggling pitcher needs at this point, the Philadelphia Phillies 2015 lineup.