WASHINGTON — After five games, you have to love this new Phillies’ offense. It’s powerful. It’s prolific. It’s capable of grinding through big deficits.
On Wednesday, the Phillies fell behind by four runs early in the game, but by the middle of the eighth inning were up by two runs, thanks mostly to a booming three-run double by Andrew McCutchen in that frame.
The Phils were six outs away from winning their fifth straight game out of the gate and solidifying themselves as the best story in baseball when all of a sudden it turned into 2018 again.
The Phils were the worst defensive team in the majors last year and they were the worst defensive team on the field Wednesday. They made three errors on the day en route to a disappointing 9-8 loss to the Washington Nationals (see observations).
No one expected the Phils to go 162-0, but they should be 5-0.
They gave this one away.
They were betrayed by their defense when first baseman Rhys Hoskins missed a throw from reliever Seranthony Dominguez that would have ended the bottom of the eighth. Dominguez' throw sailed right past Hoskins and that allowed the tying run to scamper home.
An inning later, reliever David Robertson allowed a single and three straight walks and the Nats danced off the field with the win.
Again, the Phils gave this one away.
It started with Hoskins’ error.
“Human error,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
Hoskins made no excuses.
“Have to catch it,” he said. “I missed it. Can't happen.”
Dominguez, who was shaky and had previously allowed a run in the inning, appeared to get Adam Eaton on a soft tapper in front of the mound. Dominguez retrieved the ball and appeared to have trouble getting a grip before throwing to first. Hoskins, shockingly, failed to get leather on the ball.
Did Dominguez’ hesitation affect Hoskins’ read on the play? Did the ball tail on him? Did he lose the ball in the late-day shadows?
Nope. Nope. Nope.
“He hesitated a little bit but I still had plenty of time to catch the ball,” Hoskins said. “I clanked it.”
Last year, the Phillies made 123 errors, second most in the majors, and ranked last with minus-146 defensive runs saved.
They surely have cleaned up a lot of those issues with the offseason acquisitions of shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto, not to mention the move of Hoskins from left field to his natural spot at first base. But, ironically, all three players made errors Wednesday. They were the Phillies’ first three errors of the season.
In addition to the poor defense, the Phillies were plagued by poor control and command on the mound. Aaron Nola lasted just three innings, walked two and made mistakes over plate that resulted in four extra-base hits, including three homers and an early four-run deficit. And Robertson, obviously, had his issues.
“One thing that stands out to me today is that we had three players not have their best games in Aaron, Rhys and David,” Kapler said. “But they’re all three guys that I would push all my chips in right now that are going to help us win a ton of baseball games and be at the central point of those wins. They didn’t have their best days today. I acknowledge that. We move on.”
On the plus side, the offense racked up another big number. The Phils have scored at least eight runs four times in the first five games.
“There’s a lot to be happy about,” Hoskins said of the Phillies’ start. “But it never feels good to leave a city knowing we could have had one more. We’ll be better. We’ll learn from what we did today and be ready for Friday.”
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