Now, that’s what you call an offensive explosion! Kidding, but seriously the Phillies scored five runs tonight, which should help quell rumors of the team’s demise. The only issue was the pitching on Wednesday night as the Phillies fell to the Washington Nationals, 7-5. Yes, three straight losses to the Nationals equal five in a row overall. It’s the Phillies first five game losing streak since May 22-27, 2010.
If you knew nothing about baseball and watched the Phillies play as of late, you’d think they were a Double-A team. The frustration has set in, and it’s somewhat understandable. But as I’ve said (and many others as well) these games mean zero. When the calendar flips to October, it’ll be time to judge.
After three runs through three innings, the Phillies didn’t strike again until the eighth inning. Down 7-3, John Mayberry Jr. stated his case for a starting job in the playoffs and next season with a titanic home run deep to right field to cut the Nationals lead to 7-5. That’s as close as the Phils would get.
It was a fantastic night for Mayberry and the bottom of the order. Big John finished up 3-for-4 with a home run, three runs scores, and two RBI. Batters 5-through-7 in the order (Mayberry, Ibanez, Francisco) went a combined 8-for-12 with four RBI. The top four hitters of the Phillies lineup (Rollins, Victorino, Polanco, Utley) finished 0-for-16.
Heading into Wednesday’s game, John Lannan was 1-12 lifetime against the Phils with the only victory coming earlier this season in Washington. Tonight made it two in a row. In five innings, Lannan gave up three runs on eight hits, and got the win as his offense supplied him with two runs in the top half of the sixth. That came off the bat of Danny Espinosa; his 21st home run was a two-run blast to right field that put the Nats ahead 4-3.
Vance Worley was responsible for that home run, as well as the second inning homer hit by Wilson Ramos; a two-run shot. In what was his final start of the season, Worley was a bit erratic, having allowed four runs on six hits with three walks. The six K’s were nice; hopefully that translates to becoming a solid one-inning reliever if need be. Charlie Manuel stated prior to the game that Worley will be in the bullpen for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
Joe Blanton pitched an inning of relief and looked decent, routinely hitting 89-91 on the gun. He gave up one hit and struck out one. At the other end of the spectrum was Justin De Fratus.
Before the game, De Fratus told me he was just trying to calm his nerves and that guys like Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson were helping out in that department. However, he faced two batters on Wednesday night, hitting the first and walking the second. Appears the nerves are still an issue. I wonder if it might be easier for a young pitcher to break in with a team like the Royals or Astros; a team that has no postseason aspirations and works mainly without proper leadership on the field? Perhaps De Fratus is feeling uneasy being in the presence of veterans who have been there, done that.
Antonio Bastardo came in and committed an error that allowed a run to score, plus gave up a couple of run-scoring base hits. A 4-3 Washington lead became 7-3 in what seemed like a matter of moments. The bullpen had again failed miserably. Even more worrisome is that the Phillies seem to have lost their eighth inning guy. Bastardo has allowed six earned runs in his last 3 1/3 innings over six appearances. He had allowed only five earned in his previous 35 1/3 innings over 37 appearances (h/t – Martin Frank).
When asked about the struggles at top of the lineup, Charlie Manuel’s said “I’m concerned about it, yeah. At the same time, I’ve seen them hit, I think that they’ll hit.” Manuel seems to be rather upbeat while he witnesses his offense shooting blanks on a daily basis. Even he says he still has confidence that the team will turn it on when it matters most. Let’s hope the skipper is right.