The Phillies opened an important six-game homestand with a poor display of fundamentals on Monday night.
The result was a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals in front of a smallish crowd of 21,261 at Citizens Bank Park.
At a time when they need to be playing well to stay in contention and possibly catch the first-place Atlanta Braves, the Phillies are coming up very small. In fact, they look like a team running out of gas (see story). The loss was the team’s seventh in the last nine games and 13th in the last 20.
Defense has been a season-long issue for the Phillies and it was again in this game. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin and leftfielder Rhys Hoskins both made defensive blunders that directly led to a pair of runs as the Nationals broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the fourth inning.
The Phillies entered the game with 99 errors, second most in the majors, and they ranked last in the majors with minus-101 defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs data.
Trailing 5-2 in the sixth inning, the Phils appeared to be putting something together when Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera both singled with no outs. Cabrera’s single went to right field and Ramos tried to go first to third on the play. Ramos probably would have made it hadn’t he simply downshifted into a jog after rounding second base. It’s possible that Ramos felt a twinge in one of his sore hamstrings (see story), but he did not leave the game. Nonetheless, his running into an out hurt the Phils in that situation.
Eflin did not pitch all that well. He gave up eight hits and five runs (two unearned) over 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and gave up a solo homer to Matt Wieters in the second inning. The home run gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead. They had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on three straight hits in the first inning. Two of those hits went through the infield as the Phillies were using a shift.
Odubel Herrera has poor career numbers against Stephen Strasburg, so he did not start. Roman Quinn started in center field and batted leadoff with Cesar Hernandez filling the No. 3 hole. They both drove in a run against Strasburg in the third inning, Quinn with a triple and Hernandez with a single.
The Phillies did not score again until the eighth when Hoskins belted a solo homer, his 27th, to make it a two-run game.
The Phillies entered the game ranked 27th in the majors with a .238 batting average. They ranked 29th in the majors in hits (1,045) and were able to add just six to that total. Strasburg pitched six innings of five-hit, two-run ball for the win.
The Phillies are 70-61, 3½ games behind idle Atlanta in the NL East.
The Phils have a tough assignment Tuesday night as they face Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and the majors’ leader in strikeouts. Scherzer is 16-6 with a 2.13 ERA. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, who out-pitched Scherzer last week in Washington. Nola is 15-3 with a 2.13 ERA.