WASHINGTON -- The Phillies continue to make things hard on themselves in the final days of their quest to end a 10-year playoff drought.
They lost the first game of a doubleheader against the worst team in baseball Saturday afternoon for several reasons, but poor defense, a longtime issue with this club, ranked at the top.
Joey Meneses, a name avid followers of the Phillies' minor-league system will remember, drove in four runs as the Washington Nationals slapped the Phillies with a damaging 13-4 loss in which the Phils eventually had to use a position player on the mound, an embarrassing development any time but especially in the final days of a playoff chase.
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Three of Meneses' RBIs came on a bases-clearing double that eluded third baseman Alec Bohm with two outs in the second inning. The ball came off the bat at just 78 mph. Bohm had a chance to make a backhand play on the ball, either on the hop or in the air, and did neither. The next batter, Luke Voit, took Kyle Gibson deep to complete a five-run inning and give the Nationals a 6-1 lead that they never relinquished.
The loss was the Phillies' sixth in the last seven games and 11th in the last 15 as they continue to stagger to the finish line with their playoff hopes teetering. At 84-73, they are tied with Milwaukee for the final NL wild-card spot. Both teams will be in action Saturday night. The Brewers host Miami while the Phillies will go with Noah Syndergaard in the nightcap in Washington.
"We've got to go get 'em in the second game," manager Rob Thomson said. "See what we're made of."
And what is this Phillies team that is 11-15 in September made of?
"All year, I've said they're resilient and they fight and they come back and they do," Thomson said. "Even in the eighth and ninth innings, there was a lot of energy on the bench. The entire game you're thinking we're going to come back.
"This team has been resilient all year and I trust them and I have faith in them and I have confidence in them and I think we're going to be all right."
The results of Game 2 in Washington and the Brewers-Marlins game in Milwaukee will go a long way to determining if the Phillies are actually going to be all right.
The Phillies acquired Syndergaard at the trade deadline, but he was moved to the bullpen after eight starts, the last four of which saw him give up 30 hits and 15 earned runs in 22 innings.
Like Syndergaard, Gibson has also had a lot of recent struggles. He had an ERA of 9.53 in five September starts, and the Phillies lost four of those games. The first day of October did not bring better results for Gibson. He was presented with a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and proceeded to walk the first batter in the bottom of the inning. That turned into the tying run.
In the second inning, Gibson gave up three two-out singles -- one was an infield hit on which CJ Abrams outraced second baseman Jean Segura's throw -- before Meneses drove his double past Bohm for three runs.
It could have been a different game if Segura or Bohm had made a play behind Gibson.
"Usually, he's going to make that play," Thomson said of the ball Meneses hit by Bohm. "He just got a bad read off it. It was kind of a changeup, hooked ball. He just got a late break on it. He should have knocked it down if he could."
"Yeah," Thomson said. "That was a big part of the game. And Abrams beat out the base hit earlier in the inning. I don't know if the runner got in the way on Seggy and he changed his route. I think he thought it was hit harder than it was."
Gibson did not point the finger at his defense.
"I don't think it took me out of my game," he said. "I'm not one to sit here and talk about any of our guys negatively. They work their butts off every day. Sometimes it doesn't go our way, sometimes it does. When it doesn't go our way, I'm not going to sit here and say anything negative. I think everybody involved knows it's part of the game. I had chances to limit the damage after that and I didn't."
Later in the game, Meneses homered against Gibson, who ended up allowing eight hits and seven runs.
Meneses is a 30-year-old journeyman minor-leaguer who made his big-league debut with the Nationals on August 8. Since being called up, he leads the Nats with 68 hits, 13 homers and 33 RBIs.
One of Meneses' minor-league stops was Lehigh Valley in 2018. He hit .311 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs but never got a sniff from the big club. Four years later, he put a dent in the team's playoff hopes.