Phillies feast on faulty Nationals, improve to 12-2 in June


WASHINGTON – This wasn’t as much a case of Thomson Magic as it was Nationals’ incompetence, but the Phillies will take it.

Sixty-three games into the season, the Phils finally squared off against their National League East foes from the nation’s capital on Thursday night. It was the first of 19 meetings between the two teams over the remainder of the season and the Phillies, riding a 10-year postseason drought, sure would like to see the next 18 go as well as this one.

The Phillies scored seven unearned runs in the third inning on their way to a 10-1 victory, their 11th in 13 games under new manager Rob Thomson.

“We took advantage of a couple of miscues, but we swung the bats well again,” Thomson said. “Everybody in the lineup had a hit. We ran the bases well.

“It’s good to win the first one. Sets the tone for the series.”

At 33-31, the Phils are two games over .500 for the first time since the season was four days old. They are 12-2 in the month of June. (They opened the month with a win under Joe Girardi.)

Three seasons after winning the World Series, the Nationals have the worst record in the National League and a lineup that features two infielders who were cast off by the Phillies, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.

Hernandez, the Nats’ second baseman, committed a fielding error with two outs in the third inning and that opened the floodgates for the Phillies to score seven times against lefty Patrick Corbin in the inning.

It was all academic after that, especially with Zack Wheeler on the mound. The right-hander allowed just a run in seven innings as the Phillies won for the seventh time in his last nine starts.

“They definitely gave me a nice cushion,” Wheeler said of his mates’ seven-run third inning, which included six hits, three for extra bases, and a walk.

“This is kind of what we expected coming in (to the season). We’re hitting on all cylinders right now. Hopefully, we’ll continue it.”

The Phillies have been a different team even since June arrived and Kyle Schwarber awakened at the plate. He has set the offensive tone for the team out of the leadoff spot all month and continued to do so in this one. He clubbed a two-run homer after Hernandez’ error in the third and added a solo blow in the fourth.

“That’s what good teams do, jump on mistakes,” Schwarber said.

June might be the month of brides but it’s also the month of Schwarber. He has seven home runs and 14 RBIs in 14 games this month. In June of 2021, as a member of the Nationals, he hit 16 homers in 27 games. 

“He’s a June guy,” Wheeler said. “He’s a good ballplayer. It’s fun watching him. I was really excited when we signed him because it was hard pitching against him.”

Schwarber signed a four-year, $79 million contract with the Phillies in March. Several days later, Nick Castellanos came aboard on a five-year, $100 million deal.

Castellanos has sputtered recently, but he swung the bat well Thursday night with an RBI single and an RBI double. The Phils would love to see his bat heat up like Schwarber’s and Rhys Hoskins’ have this month.

The starting pitching matchup was an interesting one. The Phillies made an offer to Corbin when he was a free agent after the 2018 season. He ended up signing a six-year, $140 million deal with Washington and was part of a World Series winner in his first season with the club.

A year after missing out on Corbin, the Phillies signed Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract that they are quite happy with. Had the Phillies signed Corbin after the 2018 season, they might not have pursued Wheeler a year later.

Wheeler gave up just four hits, one of which was a solo homer to Josh Bell. He walked none and struck out just three. He didn’t have his best fastball of the season, but maybe he didn’t need it.

Over his last nine starts, Wheeler has given up just nine earned runs in 57 2/3 innings for an ERA of 1.40. Since joining the Phillies in 2020, he has a 2.79 ERA in 55 starts.

The Phillies have won nine in a row against Washington, dating to last season. They need to keep making hay against the Nationals. The two teams play a doubleheader on Friday.

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