It was a long Tuesday at the ballpark.

The Phillies and Nationals split a doubleheader that frankly, the Phillies should have swept. Regardless, the Phillies hit four homers in the opener to win 8-4 and then blew a 4-2 lead in the late innings to lose the nightcap 5-4 when former Phillies farmhand Joey Meneses hit a pair of homers – first a two-run blast off of Jeff Hoffman to tie the score in the top of the seventh, and then a solo shot off Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth.

It was only the fifth time in 50 games this season that the Phillies had a lead after six innings and lost.

Rather than give you recaps of two separate games, instead I figured I’d take the opportunity with this post to address what seemed to be frequent fan concerns during the baseball marathon in South Philly.

So, without further ado….

What was wrong with Zack Wheeler early in the first game?

Good question.

Wheeler was smacked around, specifically in the second and third innings, before settling in and taking over the game in innings four through six.

He offered this as an explanation:

“I just changed up some stuff that I was doing,” Wheeler said. “We thought that I might have been tipping (pitches). They’ve been hitting me well this year, so we thought it might be time to change a little bit of something. … You never want to overthink out there, but if you are getting hit around like that multiple times by a certain team, you might want to change some stuff up. … I don’t know for sure that I was tipping pitches, but it was time to change something up, so we did.”

Wheeler got the first four batters of the game and then gave up six hits in the next 10 batters, including a solo homer to Keibert Ruiz and a two-run homer to Lane Thomas, as the Phillies fell behind 3-0:

It got so bad that a fan started mocking him after this single by Keibert Ruiz:

And yes, he was getting rocked. At the end of that clip though, you can see pitching coach Caleb Cotham go out to the mound to talk to Wheeler. It’s likely that this was when the “possible tipping” conversation took place, because after that mound meeting, Wheeler retired seven in a row and 11-of-12, yielding only a two-out single in the fifth to Dominic Smith.

The Phillies were wondering if he was tipping because in two previous starts against the Nats, Wheeler didn’t look great. He was bombed for seven earned runs on eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings on June 2 in D.C. and then gave up four runs on seven hits in just five innings on July 1.

Take those two starts and where he was before the mound visit from Cotham Saturday and Wheeler gave up 14 runs on 21 hits (and one walk) in just 11 innings against the Nats. That would equate to an 11.46 ERA and a 1.571 WHIP.

If you now extract those numbers out of his full season, Wheeler would have a 3.07 ERA and a 1.032 WHIP, which would be really good.

So, yeah, it’s likely the Nats had seen something in Wheeler, and he changed whatever it was and then the rest of the way made the Nats look like, well, the Nats.

Why is Kyle Schwarber still hitting leadoff? 

This question is asked on TwiXter ad nauseam. Every time the Phillies lineup is announced, people complain he shouldn’t be leading off. Every time Schwarber strikes out, or pops out, or hits a weak little grounder, people complain he shouldn’t be leading off.

Wanna know why he leads off, because he can do this:

And this…

And before you say, “Well, that’s why he should be in the middle of the order instead,” take note that those two home runs drove in five runs. These weren’t solo shots. The difference between the Phillies this year and the Phillies last year is the bottom of the batting order gets on base much better in 2023 than it did in 2022.

Schwarber had the fewest RBI ever by a player who hit at least 46 home runs last season (94). This season, he has 72 RBI already. That’s tied with Alec Bohm for tops on the Phillies and tied for ninth in the National League (with Bohm and San Diego’s Juan Soto).

The Phillies also have the second-best record in all of baseball since moving Schwarber back to the leadoff spot in the lineup (37-21).

The Phillies aren’t going to move him out of that spot now. He’s fourth in the league in homers (30) and is driving in runs better than ever before out of that spot. So, it’s time to stop questioning this, even if it’s seemingly unconventional.

How much did the wind help the long ball?

Well, there was wind for the first game yesterday. And it made a few fly balls adventurous and a couple carried a little more than they would have normally, but I’m not so sure the wind aided any of the six home runs between the two teams to leave the yard.

Schwarber’s two homers were bombs. So was Alec Bohm’s:

And Jake Cave’s was crushed to dead center:

All of them would have been out on a still day. The wind was blowing out toward right-center but those boys weren’t cheated on those swings.

The Phillies hit three-plus homers in a game for the third straight game, which was only the sixth time in franchise history that ever happened. The last was this week a season ago (Aug. 5-7, 2022). Spolier alert, the streak didn’t reach four games.

Should the Phillies play Johan Rojas in centerfield every day?

This is a tough question. There’s no doubt that Rojas has impressed and has added some youthful energy to a veteran clubhouse. The Phillies are most-impressed with his approach at the plate where he’s not been overmatched by major league pitching. They knew he was an elite defensive outfielder, but they thought the bat was still not ready for prime time, and yet, Rojas has started his major league career going 16-for-50 (.320), has eight RBI and five steals batting exclusively out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

But it’s a small sample size, and the question will be once there is a book on him and teams learn how to pitch him, will he be able to counter with his own adjustments?

With Cristian Pache (elbow) beginning a rehab assignment Tuesday and Brandon Marsh (knee) due back later this month, there’s been questions as to if all three can exist on the Phillies 26-man roster at the same time. Rob Thomson has said repeatedly that they can.

It would likely mean either Cave or Rodolfo Castro would be sent down to AAA (this assumes Weston Wilson is only here until Pache comes back). Castro, a switch hitter, got a start in the second game of the doubleheader against All-Star righty Josiah Gray. It was an odd choice, since Castro has not hit at the major league level against righties but has clobbered lefties.

However, it could be one of those, “Let’s see if we can fix him as a lefty, so we can keep a switch-hitting option on the bench,” situations.

If that doesn’t work out, the Phillies could elect to stick with Cave, and although they’d then technically have six outfielders (although Schwarber would basically become the full-time DH and Cave can be a backup at 1B), they would have a lefty-pinch hitter available if he’s not in the lineup. That means Edmundo Sosa would be the lone backup infielder for three positions (second, short and third).

I can see a world where against lefties, both Pache and Rojas start and Marsh and Cave are on the bench, and against Righties where Cave and Marsh start and both Pache and Rojas are on the bench. Or, in some instances, against righties, Rojas and Marsh start, with one lefty and one righty on the bench in Cave and Pache.

Any way you slice it though, I believe both Rojas and Pache are ahead of Marsh as far as preferred defensive centerfielders and Marsh would likely only start in center if Cave were next to him in left.

Then, late in games the Phillies are leading, they can also sub out Castellanos (who, to his credit, has been vastly improved as a defensive outfielder in 2023), and have an outfield defense from left-to-right of, say, Marsh-Rojas-Pache, which arguably would be one of the best defensive outfields in the sport.

I mean…

Why didn’t Rob Thomson play Alec Bohm in the second game of a double header?

That’s the polite way of putting into words what people were saying online when the Game 2 lineup came out Tuesday night.

Because, believe it or not, there is a segment of fans who think Thomson is terrible at his job. The guy is only 29 games over .500 since taking over a little over a year ago and managed the team to the World Series, but what does he know about anything?

Thomson addressed this lineup decision and basically laid it out that the Phillies are in the midst of 17 days without an off day and the regulars need to get a blow here and there.

And while technically they were off Monday because of the rainout, it wasn’t an off day. The players came to work and followed their entire pre-game routines, including full batting practice, fielding practice and pitching warm-ups.

As such, Thomson wants to give these guys a breather this week. Seven players played in both games of the doubleheader. Two of them, Schwarber and Bryce Harper, got to DH one of the games, so they were off their feet in a way in one game. The other five, Rojas, Castellanos, Cave, Bryson Stott and Trea Turner, never subbed out either.

With Turner feeling like he’s in a little bit of a groove now (7-for-17 since Friday), Castellanos on a nine-game hitting streak, and Rojas the only true centerfielder on the active roster, they might be the only ones who keep playing. through this week.

But, with the Phillies facing back-to-back lefties Wednesday and Thursday (MacKenzie Gore and Patrick Corbin) and in all likelihood getting another one over the weekend when the Twins come to town (Dallas Keuchel) You can bet your bottom dollar Stott, Cave and probably Schwarber will get a game off, and maybe even Harper too.

Speaking of Harper…

Is Harper’s power back?

He’s hit seven homers this season. Three in the last five games. Tuesday, it was his homer in the second game that put the Phillies in front:

The bullpen didn’t hold that lead, and otherwise Harper had a rough doubleheader, striking out six times in the two games, but it was only a matter of time before he started finding the seats. I think you’ll see a lot more of this over the final two months of the season and into October.

Why did Thomson let Jeff Hoffman come out for a second inning of work in the seventh inning when he had all three of the guys at the back of the bullpen (Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto and Craig Kimbrel)?

Quite simply, the Nationals had some lefthanded pinch-hitting options available and Thomson wanted to be able to use either Dominguez or Soto in the eighth and have the other ready in case the pinch hitters were/were not used. As such, they needed Hoffman to get through one more inning. He didn’t.

Really, this goes back to Ranger Suarez, who pitched really well for 5 2/3 innings, being unable to get the final out of the sixth inning and loading the bases, forcing Hoffman into the game early and then having to do an up-down in the seventh.

The strategy was sound. The execution was not. Plain and simple.

Did home plate umpire Derek Thomas cost Craig Kimbrel a strikeout of Joey Meneses on the pitch before the game-winning homer?

A lot of people thought so. And it’s completely understandable as the box on television suggested it was a strike. Even MLB gamecast had it on the border.

But both Thomson and Kimbrel felt like it wasn’t a pitch in which they were screwed.

“I heard that it went through the top of the box but those boxes move around and you can’t really trust them,” Thomson said. “Even if it is a strike, you have to move on and make a good pitch the next pitch.”

Which Kimbrel didn’t.

“I made one bad pitch, that’s really all I can say,” Kimbrel said.

I asked him if he felt like he had Meneses struck out on the pitch prior. He said no.

The pitcher didn’t have a problem with Thomas’ call. The manager didn’t have a problem with Thomas’ call. Just let it go there.