Jimmy Rollins took the field at shortstop for the Phillies prior to tonight’s first pitch in front of a sellout crowd. For a moment, it felt just like old times. In the bottom of the seventh inning, it felt that way for more than just a moment when the Phillies ambushed the Nationals bullpen with a five-run explosion that erased a two-run deficit. Yeah, it definitely felt like old times.
And then it felt like 2015.
The Phillies and Nationals, ever so generous, spent the duration of the seventh inning trying to give the game to one another. In the top half, Washington scored its second and third unearned runs of the night without batting a ball out of the infield, spurred by a Juan Nicasio throwing error on a poor bunt attempt from Victor Robles. Not to be outdone, Washington reliever Joe Ross imploded, allowing four doubles in a stunning rally that gave the Phillies what was a seemingly commanding 8-5 lead. Seemingly.
With two outs and a runner on first in the eighth, Washington’s Spencer Kieboom singled to keep the inning alive. Gabe Kapler elected to remove Pat Neshek after 19 pitches in favor of Adam Morgan. That’s when all hell broke loose.
Morgan, who had not allowed a run in his first 16 appearances this season, elevated a changeup out over the plate. As is often the case when pitchers elevate changeups out over the plate, this happened:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 5, 2019
“Just changeup away. The first one was up, and then the second one–I just didn’t get it down enough,” Morgan said of the ill-fated pitch.
Robles would then homer two pitches later to give the Nationals the lead for good. Four pitches, two home runs, and a quick turn of events for a pitcher who came into tonight not having allowed a home run since late last July, a stretch spanning over 34 innings pitched. Let me put that another way. Between July 25th of last season and tonight, Adam Morgan faced 137 batters and didn’t allow a home run to any of them. Not one. He then went:
- Changeup: Home run
- Curveball: Ball
- Two-seam fastball: Home run
Baseball is weird, man.
After the game, Kapler defended his decision to call on Morgan.
“In that situation, you like a fresh Morgan, who’s been arguably your best pitcher all year, against a pinch hitter, and that’s the way you make them make the move.”
Nobody is going to sit here and argue that the Phillies’ bullpen has been lights out this season, but it entered the night with a respectable 4.03 ERA, good for the NL’s sixth-best mark. Five earned runs (seven total) in only three innings later, the bullpen finished the night with a 4.32 ERA and was largely responsible in preventing the Phillies from winning for the sixth time in their last seven games. Kapler, who was after the game not exactly what I would call verbose, seemed to know it.
“I think our bullpen has performed well throughout the season. Tonight was not our bullpen’s best performance,” Kapler said.
The late inning meltdown(s) spoiled a quality start from Jake Arrieta who threw only 89 pitches. He lasted six innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven.
They say a win is a win and a loss is a loss, but…man. The Phillies make you feel it. Then again, at least they’re not the Mets. The Mets are still gonna Met:
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) May 5, 2019