Tied for final WC spot, Phils need to flip a switch

October 1st, 2022

WASHINGTON -- The Phillies asked  to record the final out in the eighth inning in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader at Nationals Park.

It symbolized why the Phillies’ first trip to the postseason since 2011 is in serious jeopardy.

The Phillies suffered a brutal 13-4 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park, which dropped them into a tie with Milwaukee for the third NL Wild Card with five games to play. Fortunately for the Phillies, they own a tiebreaker over the Brewers, so Milwaukee needs to finish the season with a better record to knock them from the postseason. But can the Phillies outplay the Brewers the rest of the way?

They have lost 11 of their last 15 games.

“Today was a rough day,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve just got to go get them the second game, see what we’re made of. All year I’ve said that they’re resilient and they come back and they fight. And they do. Even in the eighth and ninth innings today, they had a lot of energy on the bench. The entire game, really, you’re thinking that they’re going to come back.

“I trust them, I have faith in them and I have confidence in them. I believe that we’re going to be all right.”

But this is not June with 80 games to play. This is early October with less than a week to play.

The Phillies need to flip a switch.

Kyle Gibson allowed seven runs in six innings. He has a 9.73 ERA in six starts since the beginning of September, which is the Phillies’ fifth-highest ERA in September/October (minimum five starts) since 1901.

“It’s been a frustrating month,” he said.

Gibson had runners at the corners with two outs in the first inning when he allowed a single to Luis García to tie the game at 1. He allowed a couple hard-hit singles with two outs in the second. CJ Abrams then hit a slow chopper to second baseman Jean Segura, who was late to the ball.

Abrams beat Segura’s throw to load the bases.

“I don’t know whether the runner got in the way of Seggy and changed his direction on the route,” Thomson said. “I think maybe he thought the ball was hit a little bit harder than it was. Then the runner is in the way. There’s a lot of things going on. He really should have just run into the runner.”

Joey Meneses then rolled a bases-clearing double past third baseman Alec Bohm, who whiffed at the ball. Bohm needed to catch the ball. Or at least knock it down.

“Yeah, usually he’s going to make that play,” Thomson said. “He got a bad read off it. It was kind of a changeup, hook ball. He just got a late break on it. He should have knocked it down, if he could. That was a big part of the game.”

“I had a couple chances to limit the damage there after that and I didn’t do it,” Gibson said. “Sure, I mean I think everybody involved is frustrated.”

The Nationals led, 4-1. Luke Voit then crushed a two-run homer to center to make it 6-1.

The Phillies scored their first run in the first inning on a risky double steal that Bryce Harper initiated from first base.

“I mean, I trust them, but we’ll talk about it,” Thomson said.

Nick Nelson allowed three runs in the seventh to turn a 7-4 deficit into a 10-4 deficit.

Game over.

It is natural to wonder if the pressure is getting to the Phillies. Late-season fades are nothing new to them. They are a combined 58-84 (.408) the past five Septembers/Octobers. It is the fifth-lowest winning percentage in the Majors in that span.

“I don’t think it’s panic,” Thomson said. “They want to win games and get in. That’s not panic, though. I don’t sense panic, I really don’t. I sense a group that really wants to get in the playoffs.”

Time is running out.

“If we win the games that we’re supposed to win, we control our own destiny,” Gibson said.