The Phillies have been red-hot under Interim Manager Rob Thomson, going 21-10 with him at the helm. This performance has them tied for the final wildcard spot in the National League. However, Wednesday night’s embarrassing loss to the Nationals reminded us that the Phillies haven’t quite changed as much as we hoped they had.
The Phillies have had some glaring holes all season, and centerfield and shortstop are at the top of the list. The once-solid Didi Gregorius is now a shell of his former self, and Odúbel Herrera has reverted to being a below league average player. Both men’s flaws were on full display tonight.
Aaron Nola took a tough luck loss in a game that he deserved to win. His three earned runs over 7.2 innings are more good than great, but two of those should be wiped from his ledger.
The Phils led 2-1 in the seventh inning and Nola had been cruising all night. He surrendered two bloop base hits to put runners on first and second, but that didn’t seem like imminent danger. Then, Nats shortstop Luis García hit a long fly ball to dead center. He put a charge into it, but it was catchable. However, Odúbel Herrera inexplicably got turned around and took an awful route to the ball, ultimately crashing into the wall nowhere near it and letting it drop for a two-run double. Herrera’s complete ineptitude in centerfield tonight shined a light on a glaring weakness the Phillies have had all season: they don’t have a reliable centerfielder.
Nola should have been out of trouble, but instead he found himself on the wrong end of the scoreboard. That proved to be the dagger for the Phillies, as they didn’t have a comeback in them tonight. The offense flailed away trying to put another run on the board, but things ended with Didi Gregorius helplessly striking out on three pitches. And that’s a perfect example of another issue that has plagued the Phillies all year: they have no reliable shortstop. Gregorius has a season OPS of .668, and has yet to homer all year. Bryson Stott has shown flashes of his immense potential, but he has a sub-.600 OPS on the season. Even backups Johan Camargo and Nick Maton are on the shelf. There’s just no one good to play at short.
The Phillies have made up some serious ground over the past month. They went from looking dead on arrival to sitting in a playoff spot. They’ve even held their own so far with Bryce Harper out. However, they have some far too familiar problems that will continue to rear their ugly heads, and constantly remind us that the Phillies haven’t changed as much as we wish they had.