Sun, 19 Sep 2021

Phillies seek playoff push with Nationals arriving

Field Level Media
26 Jul 2021, 15:40 GMT+10

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached the .500 mark 19 times this season.

If they're going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, they're going to need more wins as the calendar inches toward August.

The Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 on Sunday to split a four-game series and will now host the Washington Nationals Monday in the first of four games.

"If we're going to make the playoffs, we have to play better," Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. "Whether we add people or don't add people, we have to play better. That's the only way it's going to happen. Everything always starts with the pitcher on the mound that day."

Aaron Nola was outstanding with 8 2/3 strong innings Sunday. His shutout bid was stopped only by a two-out home run by Austin Riley in the ninth inning.

"This game -- as much as we love offense -- is still about pitching. It's pitching, pitching and pitching," Girardi said. "If you don't pitch, you don't have a chance."

The Phillies will send Spencer Howard to the mound as they look for a second consecutive victory. Howard (0-2, 5.11 ERA) is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against the Nationals.

Howard's issue has been his lack of innings. Too often, Howard has been pulled after three innings or fewer. He has started in six of his 10 outings this season, but has only last four innings twice.

"Just the feeling of pitching later in games is something that I kind of forgot how to do, and it's a skill definitely," Howard said. "Being able to go down there and throw 86 or 85 pitches or so, I think those reps versus hitters late in the game are where a lot of my improvements are. That's where I see myself improving. It's definitely beneficial."

The struggling Nationals will hope to avoid a fifth straight loss. It looked better for much of Sunday before giving up two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Nationals, who were swept by the Orioles, managed to scored four runs after coming up with only five runs in the three previous games.

Offensive consistency has been a problem all season.

"I think it's maybe just trying too hard," Trea Turner said. "I think everybody's trying to compete, trying to earn their spot or win games or whatever it may be, whatever their mindset is. It might be just trying to do a little too much on each individual basis."

"Our offense needs to get it going again," manager Dave Martinez added. "We were swinging the bats so well, and now -- all of a sudden -- we're not."

Turner had two hits on Sunday and Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run home run, but closer Brad Hand gave up two runs in the ninth. During this losing streak, not much has gone right.

"I've been there, I've taken part in that as well. When you want to do well, you want to come through for your team and try to help the team win," Turner said. "I think you can do things like that. It's a matter of relaxing and letting the game kind of come to you and getting good pitches to hit."

Joe Ross (5-8, 4.02) is scheduled to start for the Nationals. Ross, who's 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his career against the Phillies (seven games, five starts), had been on the injured list since July 8 with right elbow inflammation.

--Field Level Media

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