Down three middle-of-the-order bats, the Phillies’ offense stayed hot in a 7-4 win Monday night over the Washington Nationals in D.C., their fifth consecutive game with at least seven runs.
The Phillies have won four in a row, and the five-game streak of at least seven runs is their longest since 1980. They’ve scored exactly seven runs in each of the five games, the second-longest streak in recorded MLB history behind the Brewers’ six games in September 1989.
The win ensured the Phils (67-64) they’d end the night no more than 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who played late at Dodger Stadium. They have two more games at Nationals Park, an off day Thursday, then three in Miami.
The Braves have a much more difficult week. They faced Julio Urias Monday, Walker Buehler Tuesday and Max Scherzer Wednesday. The Braves then go to Coors Field to face a Rockies team that isn’t good but has won nine of its last 10 at home.
The Phillies must pick up ground this week, particularly in this series. The Nationals have lost 20 of their last 26 games and are ready for the season to end.
The Phils started early again with three runs in the first inning, two on Bryce Harper’s 26th homer of the season.
It was a struggle for Zack Wheeler, who gave up two runs in the second, one in the third, and one in the fifth. He had to work hard all night and spent most of it out of the stretch but pitched well enough to win, retiring the final six hitters he faced.
The biggest hit of the night for the Phillies was Ronald Torreyes’ three-run triple in the third inning after the Nationals had made it a one-run game. Torreyes is 22-for-68 this season with runners in scoring position, hitting .324 with seven extra-base hits.
Jose Alvarado scared the fans of the Phils by putting the first two men on base in the ninth inning but retired the next three to end the game with the tying run at the plate. Closer Ian Kennedy was unavailable and Hector Neris had pitched in three straight games.
The Phils played without J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, and Didi Gregorius. Realmuto is dealing with injuries to his ankle and right shoulder, Hoskins is out for the season with an abdominal tear, and Gregorius is on paternity leave, though he should be back at some point in this series.
Their absences make Odubel Herrera, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and Brad Miller even more important. Herrera had two hits and a walk Monday and is batting .333 in August with a 1.012 OPS. Miller homered and reached base all five times.
McCutchen has hit .130 in 17 games since returning from a knee injury and appeared to tweak his knee running the bases Monday night. Travis Jankowski replaced McCutchen as part of a double switch in the seventh inning but Jankowski left the game himself an inning later.
Harper has had a massive month. He’s hit .323 and slugged .774 in August with 10 doubles, 10 home runs, 23 RBI, 24 runs, and as many walks (21) as strikeouts.
Wheeler will be happy to turn the page from August. This was the seventh time in his last 10 starts that Wheeler allowed at least four runs. His ERA has increased from 2.05 to 3.02 in that span as he’s fallen well behind Buehler (2.02 ERA) in the NL Cy Young race.