MLB Wild Card Phillies are struggling with the loss to

MLB Wild Card: Phillies are struggling with the loss to the Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Phillies continue to struggle in the final days of their quest to end a 10-year playoff drought.

They lost the first game of a doubleheader against the worst team in baseball on Saturday afternoon for a number of reasons, but poor defense, a longstanding problem at the club, ranked at the top.

Joey Meneses, a name that will be remembered by avid supporters of the Phillies’ minor league system, drove in four runs as the Washington Nationals beat the Phillies in a damaging 13-4 loss that saw the Phils eventually pick a position player on the Hill, an embarrassing development at any time but especially so in the final days of a playoff chase.

Three of Meneses’ RBIs hit a bases clearing double, which eluded third baseman Alec Bohm with two outs in the second inning. The ball came off the bat at just 78 miles per hour. Bohm had chances to backhand the ball, either in a vault or in the air, and did none of it. The next batter, Luke Voit, took Kyle Gibson deep to complete a five-run inning and give the Nationals a 6-1 lead they never gave up.

The loss was the Phillies’ sixth in their last seven games and 11th in their last 15 as they continue to stagger to the finish line with playoff hopes faltering. At 84-73, they are tied with Milwaukee for the last NL wildcard spot. Both teams will be in action on Saturday evening. The Brewers are hosting Miami, while the Phillies will head to Washington for the nightcap with Noah Syndergaard.

“We’ve got to get them in the second game,” said manager Rob Thomson. “See what we’re made of.”

And what is this Phillies team playing September 11-15 made up of?

“All year I’ve been saying they’re resilient and fighting and coming back and doing that,” Thomson said. “There was a lot of energy on the bench in the eighth and ninth innings as well. The whole game you think we’re gonna come back.

“This team has been resilient all year and I trust them and I have faith in them and I have faith in them and I think we’re going to be okay.”

The results of Game 2 in Washington and the Brewers-Marlins game in Milwaukee will go a long way in determining if the Phillies will actually be okay.

The Phillies acquired Syndergaard at the close, but he was moved to the bullpen after eight starts, giving up on the last four 30 hits and 15 earned runs in 22 innings.

Like Syndergaard, Gibson has had a lot of trouble lately. He had a 9.53 ERA in five starts in September, and the Phillies lost four of those games. The first day of October brought no better results for Gibson. He was presented with a 1-0 lead at the top of the first inning and went on to lead the first batter in the bottom of the inning. From this developed the tie.

In the second inning, Gibson gave up three two-out singles — one was an infield hit that saw CJ Abrams pass second baseman Jean Segura’s throw — before Meneses drove his double past Bohm by three runs.

It could have been a different game if Segura or Bohm played behind Gibson.

“He’s usually going to make that play,” Thomson said of the ball hit by Meneses from Bohm. “He just got a bad reading of it. It was kind of a switch, hookball. He just took a late break. He should have knocked it over if he could.”

game changer?

“Yes,” Thomson said. “That was a big part of the game. And Abrams hit the base earlier in the inning. I don’t know if the runner got in Seggy’s way and he changed his route. I think he thought it was hit harder than it was.”

Gibson didn’t point fingers at his defense.

“I don’t think it took me out of my game,” he said. “I’m not one to sit here and talk negatively about any of our guys. You work your butt off every day. Sometimes it doesn’t go our way, sometimes it does. I’m not going to sit here and say anything negative. I think everyone involved knows it’s part of the game. I had chances to limit the damage afterwards and I didn’t.

Later in the game, Meneses homed against Gibson, who ended up conceding eight hits and seven runs.

Meneses is a 30-year-old journeyman in the minor league who made his major league debut at the Nationals on Aug. 8. Since his draft, he has led the Nats with 68 hits, 13 homers and 33 RBIs.

One of Meneses’ minor league stops was Lehigh Valley in 2018. He hit .311 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs but never got a whiff of the big club. Four years later, he thwarted the team’s playoff hopes.