Phillies running in slow motion in loss to Nationals

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Wilson Ramos walks off the field after being tagged out at third base in the sixth inning.

At best, it was an embarrassing highlight, something to laugh about when it gets played in one of those ballpark blooper videos. At worst, it was a well-intended play that wound up as a costly error in judgment.

Either way, it symbolized another rough night for the Phillies.

Wilson Ramos isn’t the fastest runner when he’s healthy, and these days, he’s far from healthy. The veteran catcher is dealing with two cranky hamstrings, one of which sidelined him for the latter half of July and the first two weeks of August. So, when he tried to go from first to third on a single down the right-field line with nobody out and the Phillies trailing by three runs in the sixth inning Monday night, well, he was doomed. And sure enough, Ramos got thrown out easily, the last 50 feet of his slog appearing to happen in slow motion.

The Phillies didn’t stand much chance against the Washington Nationals, either. Not with the number of mistakes they made. A porous shift, pitcher Zach Eflin’s errant throw to home plate, and leftfielder Rhys Hoskins’ bad break on a fly ball were the most glaring in a 5-3 loss in front of a tepid announced crowd of 21,261 at Citizens Bank Park.

“We gave a club with a very good, deep lineup additional outs,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We can’t afford to do that.”

It marked the Phillies’ seventh consecutive series-opening loss. They haven’t won any of the previous six series. They have gone 7-13 since a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins earlier this month.

After that series, Fangraphs.com gave them a 54.1 percent chance to win the National League East and a 70 percent chance to make the playoffs. Now those odds are down to 31.4 percent and 39.4 percent, respectively.

Let’s pause, though, for a reality check: The Phillies lost 96 games last season. The notion that they would arrive at almost the doorstep of September and be even 3 1/2 games out of first place — with seven games left against the division-leading Atlanta Braves — with a flawed roster and a defense that has committed 100 errors is too unbelievable not to be recognized for as long as it lasts.

“I actually think we’re in a perfectly good spot right now,” general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. “We are three games out of the division, we are two games out of the wild card, and we are a team that has lost 90-plus games three years in a row and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011. We get hot and play well in September, we can do some damage and play some October baseball.”

Not if they don’t play better than this.

After rallying to score twice in the third inning on a triple by Roman Quinn and an RBI single by Cesar Hernandez — who were shuffled to the leadoff and No. 3 spots in the lineup by Kapler — the Phillies literally threw away the go-ahead run in the fourth inning. Eflin loaded the bases, then fielded Stephen Strasburg’s tapper in front of the plate and flipped the ball over Ramos’ head, allowing Juan Soto to score.

“When it was put in play, my momentum was carrying me towards their dugout,” Eflin said. “Picking up the ball and throwing it home, I guess I was more concerned about being hit [by Soto] as I was throwing it. I didn’t even look at Ramos behind home plate. I take a lot of pride in being able to field my position. That one really hit home for me. I’m not happy about it. Actually, I’m pretty damn disappointed in myself.”

There wasn’t much Eflin could do about the two grounders that got through the shift for hits in the first inning or the RBI single by Trea Turner that fell in front of Hoskins in the fourth or the fact that the offense recorded only six hits, including Hoskins’ solo homer in the eighth inning that cut the deficit to 5-3.

After several months of manufacturing offense by drawing walks and waiting patiently for pitches to drive, the Phillies have become too reliant on home runs to generate offense. And that’s likely what causes a slow-footed — and sore-legged — catcher to believe he can go from first to third when it would be best to simply stop at second base.

Ramos was receiving treatment and unavailable for comment.

“I spoke to him after the game. I just shared with him that, ‘Just stop. Go base to base,'” Kapler said. “In hindsight, he probably would have done that. Maybe in his mind he thought he was going to make it to third base easily. That wasn’t the case. But I think he deserves to be recognized for being especially tough and posting for us tonight.”

 

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