For a week, Max Scherzer was penciled in as the starter to pitch this afternoon in Philadelphia. It was then revealed that Scherzer was scratched with a balky back and he has now been placed on the 10-day IL. Anibal Sanchez moved up to take Scherzer’s spot which comes with extra rest afforded by the All-Star break. This is the last game this season for the Nationals in Philadelphia, and these teams will not even see each other again until the last week in September. After the completion of this game, the Nationals only have 70 games remaining in the regular season. Because of wins like last night, the Nationals have the inside track to the first Wild Card spot with a 2-game lead over the Brewers who sit in the second Wild Card spot.
Games like last night when you take a win from the jaws of defeat is what can change the path for two teams as the Phillies would have been in the second Wild Card spot with that win. After the game, their starting pitcher from last night, Aaron Nola, just shook his head and simply said, “It’s tough. It’s tough, man.” Nola was set to rack up a 9-2 record on the season until Juan Soto changed everything with one swing of the bat in the ninth inning with two outs against Phillies’ closer Hector Neris. Nola instead got a no-decision and Neris took the blown save and loss.
“[Soto] doesn’t shy away from big moments — I can tell you that,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s just a good hitter. He understands when he steps in the batter’s box, he has a plan of what he wants to do.”
Where would the Nationals be without their “Dominican Duo” against the Phillies this season? The Nats are 9-4 in the season series right now and could just as easily be 4-9 if not for the baseball heroics of Soto and Victor Robles. The duo have combined for seven home runs this season against the Phillies and 23 RBIs with a .342 batting average and an OPS above 1.100. The best part is that Soto’s best numbers this season is against the Braves and Robles has been a bigger thorn in the Mets’ side. Soto has four career home runs in the 9th inning or later and all of them are against Philadelphia, and two of them are against closer Hector Neris. Victor Robles has three career home runs in the 8th inning or later and all of them are against Philadelphia.
The Phillies will pitch Jake Arrieta today instead of Zach Eflin who will pitch for them tomorrow in Los Angeles. Eflin has much better numbers against the Nationals, and Arrieta was diagnosed with a bone spur in his right pitching elbow. He has tried pitching through it and whether that is the root cause of his troubles, Arrieta has a 4.67 ERA and not trending in the right direction.
On the Nationals’ lineup card today, Matt Adams finally gets a start. He is a “timing” guy, and this is only his fourth start since Zimmerman was handed the starting job at the end of June. Adams had an .821 OPS when Zim came off the IL and now Adams has sunk to .786 with the sporadic playing time. In a nice tone, former manager Joe Girardi was calling the game for FOX Sports last night and was critical of Martinez’s choice not to start Howie Kendrick last night at first base. Maybe Girardi used some hindsight after two costly strikeouts by Zim early in the game and two defensive plays not made in the two innings when the Phillies scored all of their runs.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Stadium: Citizens Bank Ballpark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1st Pitch: 1:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, NBC Sports Philadelphia, TBS (out-of-market), MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):