The Phillies lost the first game of their doubleheader with the Nationals. They’re back below the .500 mark. Again.
At best, a team that bills itself as a contender — or something of the sort — can only force a split of their four-game series with an opponent that appears on the verge of a massive trade deadline sale.
It has not mattered this week that Washington came into Philadelphia playing bad baseball. It hasn’t mattered that several prominent Nationals players are likely in their final days with the team. And in Thursday’s first game, it also didn’t matter that four Nationals players were out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Max Scherzer, in what may have been his final start with Washington, matched Zack Wheeler pitch for pitch through six innings.
Really, that’s all you need to know about the first six innings. Two stud arms went out and did what was expected.
But in the seventh, a poor read and misplay by center fielder Odúbel Herrera led to a leadoff double by Gerardo Parra. Three pitches later, Yan Gomes took advantage of a rare Wheeler mistake to bury the Phillies in what felt like — and proved to be — an insurmountable two-run hole.
The Herrera play:
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) July 29, 2021
Could the ball have been caught?
With a good read, maybe. But after getting caught in between, Herrera then made matters worse by allowing Parra to reach second base. His whiff took a potential double play out of the equation on a day when Wheeler induced 11 groundouts. With the complexion of the inning altered, the Nationals took advantage.
Now, the Phillies will try to reach the .500 mark for the 21st time this season with about 24 hours left to go before the trade deadline.