The blowtorches went away Tuesday afternoon and at last baseball returned to Citizens Bank Park, but the Phillies failed to catch fire.
They opened their crucial nine-game homestand with one of their most lackluster games of the season as they fell to the Nationals, 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader. They began the doubleheader five games behind first-place Atlanta, their biggest margin of the season. Time is running out for the Phillies to make a charge. And they did not show any urgency in the first game, when they struck out 15 times.
They totaled just five hits and had eight runners reach base, four of whom reached scoring position. Their lone run came on a two-out single in the ninth by Maikel Franco.
The few thousand fans who ambled through the gates may have regretted their decision. The Phillies began the second game of the doubleheader trailing Atlanta by 5 1/2 games with 19 left to play. They have lost 15 of their last 21 games and need to win the next two games to win their first series since Aug. 5. The Phillies are just five games over .500, a mark they have not dropped to since June.
The team welcomed three pitchers from Triple A before the game and Gabe Kapler was quick to dip into his enlarged bullpen. The Phillies featured four pitches in the fifth inning as Kapler called on three relievers to face just one batter each. The Phillies used seven pitchers to record 27 outs. They used 15 batters to score one run.
The Citizens Bank Park grounds crew tended to the field almost right up until first pitch after the infield dirt was deemed unplayable a night earlier. The blowtorches made a return and a steamroller leveled out the dirt. Rhys Hoskins and Gabe Kapler both tested out the infield, which looked much improved.