Baserunning Makes the Difference in Phillies’ 3-2 Loss to Nationals

It wasn’t the cleanest game for either team on Sunday afternoon as the Philadelphia Phillies dropped their attempt at a series sweep against the Washington Nationals 3-2. Had the Phillies come out victorious, it would have been the team’s first time sweeping their first away series of the season since 2001.

Instead, the Phillies dropped their getaway day contest 3-2 in a matchup marred with poor baserunning decisions on both sides with small ball inevitably winning the day for the Nationals. On the day, the Nationals would steal five bases against the Phillies.

After finding success over the past two days, manager Rob Thomson decided to shake up the lineup for the series finale. Namely, Whit Merrifield, Edmundo Sosa, and Cristian Pache earned starts at the bottom of the order, giving Brandon Marsh, Bryson Stott, and Johan Rojas a day off, respectively, as the Phillies face left-hander MacKenzie Gore.

The Name of the Game: Baserunning

Sunday afternoon’s affair quickly became one focused on the base path for both ball clubs.

In the top of the second inning, Merrifield reached base on a two-out single into right field. After swiping second base, Merrifield was in scoring position as Sosa stepped up to the plate, slapping a single into left field to score Merrifield, giving the Phillies the early 1-0 lead.

With runners on second and third in their half of the inning, the Nationals looked to tie the contest up quickly. Riley Adams, who reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning, made a questionable decision to run on contact on a grounder from Trey Lipscomb to third base, getting thrown out a home by Alec Bohm on the play. Illdemaro Vargas then followed up with a double to score the runner from second base, tying the contest at 1-1. Had Adams stayed at third on the previous play, the double would have given the Nationals a 2-1 lead.

Later on in the inning, Nationals’ bench coach Miguel Cairo was tossed from the game by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez after questioning several ball-strike calls from the dugout.

It’s been the talk of the town over the first few weeks of the season how Kyle Schwarber has leaned up and become a singles machine. After reaching base on a walk in the top of the third, however, Schwarber showed that he is still not the swiftest of baserunners. With one out in the inning, Bryce Harper got caught on a line-out to center field.

Schwarber, believing the ball was going to drop, nearly to second base when centerfielder Jacob Young made the catch with no chance of reaching it back to first base before being doubled up. A few innings later, Schwarber would also get himself caught stealing in the top of the fifth, ending two innings on the base path for the Phillies.

Meanwhile, Lane Thomas managed two stolen bases on the day for the Nationals on his way to scoring two runs for the Nationals. Thomas reached on a no-out walk in the bottom of the third before stealing second base. Now in scoring position, Thomas trotted into home on a single from Joey Meneses into center field, giving the Nationals their first lead of the series at 2-1.

Later, and after a solo home run from Sosa tied the contest up at 2-2, Thomas reached on an infield single in the bottom of the fifth. Thomas then stole second base, advancing to third on a rare throwing error from Realmuto. Thomas would later score on a sacrifice fly from Adams, giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.

Down 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning, Trea Turner, who had struck out in his three previous at-bats, finally connected bat to ball on a scorcher into left field. Jesse Winker made a leaping catch at the warning track to prevent what would have been a lead-off extra-base-hit for the Phillies in their final chance to tie the contest.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Whit Merrifield slides home to score on a single by Edmundo Sosa during the second inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Other Notes from the Phillies’ Loss

Cristopher Sanchez did not have his best stuff from the mound for the Phillies, allowing six hits and three walks over 4.1 innings. Luckily, the Nationals could not make the most of Sanchez’s off-day, only scoring three runs against the young starter.

Yunior Marte, Matt Strahm, and Seranthony Dominguez finished the final 3.2 innings for the Phillies. Marte allowed one walk over 1.2 innings while Strahm and Dominguez each allowed a hit while pitching an inning apiece.

Offensively, Sosa highlighted the day for the Phillies, going 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBI on the contest. Bryce Harper, meanwhile, beat out an infield single in the top of the first inning to keep his five-game hitting streak alive after starting the season 0-for-11.

Next Up for the Phils

Despite the loss in the series finale, the Phillies leave Washington D.C. with the series victory and will not return until their final season series in September. The Phillies (4-5) now travel to the Gateway Arch for a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals (5-5). Monday and Tuesday’s contests are slated to start at 7:45 PM with Wednesday’s getaway game scheduled for 1:15 PM.