The Phillies, starting the final week of the season with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, were in a must-win situation Monday night against the last-place Washington Nationals.

How did they respond?

With a stinker.

“We played poorly,” manager Joe Girardi said after his team’s 5-1 loss at Nationals Park. “I mean really poorly. That’s what bothers me more than anything. We gave them runs.”

In addition to scoring just once on six hits, the Phillies made three errors and lost for the second straight time with Zack Wheeler on the mound.

The loss dropped the Phillies (27-27) to .500 and into eighth place in the National League playoff race. The Cincinnati Reds (28-27) passed them by winning for the ninth time in 11 games. The Reds beat Milwaukee, leaving the Brewers (26-27) a half-game behind the Phillies. San Francisco also remained a half-game back after losing at home to Colorado.

A 5-4 loss in Atlanta left the Miami Marlins (28-26) one game ahead of the Phillies for second place in the National League East.

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— Bob Brookover (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

Phillies center fielder Roman Quinn, left, argues with home-plate umpire Junior Valentine after being called out on strikes in the third inning Monday night at Nationals Park. Valentine eventually ejected Quinn and Phillies manager Joe Girardi.
Nick Wass / AP
Phillies center fielder Roman Quinn, left, argues with home-plate umpire Junior Valentine after being called out on strikes in the third inning Monday night at Nationals Park. Valentine eventually ejected Quinn and Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

Phillies played awful; umpires were bad, too

Phillies center fielder Roman Quinn thought he had drawn a third-inning walk Monday night, and he started to toss his bat and head to first base. Instead, home-plate umpire Junior Valentine called the 3-2 pitch from Anibal Sanchez a strike, triggering a chain of events that led to the ejection of both Quinn and Girardi.

Quinn voiced his displeasure with Valentine’s call and continued to chirp as he headed back to the dugout. The call by Valentine was correct, according to the strike-zone box on the television broadcast, but Girardi did not understand why his center fielder needed to be ejected.

“What upsets is why do you eject somebody who is walking away,” Girardi said. “That really bothers me and they have to understand patience and they’ll say, ‘Well, we gave them a chance.’ Well, give him another chance to walk away, and he was walking away and he got thrown out. It’s frustrating to me. I didn’t hear everything that Roman said so I can’t talk to that, but I didn’t hear anything and when I got out there, I kind of pushed him away.

“But it is what it is. Players need to stay in games, and so do I. Players need to stay in games more than coaches and managers because we need them in the game, and let us fight your fight sometimes. It’s frustrating because there was a strike call on Jay Bruce that was frustrating on the replay and we have a shot that we think shows [Jean] Segura is safe [on a steal attempt] and that’s frustrating. But the bottom line is I don’t know if any of that cost us the game because we didn’t swing the bats well and we didn’t play good defense.”

No one will argue Girardi’s final point, but umpires should remember that no one comes to the game to see them umpire even when no one comes to the games at all.

The rundown

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was available to the media before Monday night’s game, but he wasn’t ready to talk about his job security as his team attempts to make a playoff push. Instead, he talked about how impressed he has been by some of his young fill-in players. Again, this was before Monday night’s unsightly loss.

The Phillies have had a shortage of outfielders at various times this season, but they never invited former starting center fielder and All-Star Odubel Herrera to their alternative training site. Klentak explained his reason.

Klentak also said there is no extra pressure to re-sign J.T. Realmuto just because Sixto Sanchez, one of the players the Phillies traded to Miami to get the All-Star catcher, is having such an outstanding rookie season. Klentak did add that he still hopes to re-sign Realmuto.

Bryce Harper returned to the lineup as the designated hitter Monday night against Washington after leaving Sunday’s game because of a stiff back. The Phillies also hope that Realmuto returns to the lineup as their catcher for one of their two games Tuesday after missing 11 straight games with a strained hip flexor.

Important dates

Today: Aaron Nola goes against Austin Voth in Game 1 of a doubleheader, 3:05 p.m.

Tonight: Both teams are undecided about their Game 2 pitchers.

Tomorrow: Zach Eflin faces Erick Fedde in series finale at Nationals Park, 6:05 p.m.

Thursday: Final off day of the season.

Friday: Series opener at Tampa Bay, 6:40 p.m.

Stat of the day

On this date in 1959, Panamanian-born pitcher Humberto Robinson won the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds after refusing a $1,500 bribe from Philadelphia club owner Harold “Boomy” Friedman to throw the game. Friedman, according to the Sept. 25, 1959 Inquirer, was arrested on bribery charges and held on $15,000 bail. The 42-year-old Philadelphia resident was co-owner of the Moon Glo Supper Club on Juniper and Race Streets. After refusing the bribe, Robinson allowed just three hits and two runs in a 3-2 win over the Reds at Connie Mack Stadium.

The duo of Aaron Nola (left) and Zack Wheeler (right) could give the Phillies a chance to win a first-round playoff series.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
The duo of Aaron Nola (left) and Zack Wheeler (right) could give the Phillies a chance to win a first-round playoff series.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob

Question: Do you really think the Phillies have any chance of surviving beyond the first round if they make the playoffs? — David S., via email

Answer: The answer is yes because every team that gets in has a chance. It should be noted that the World Series has been won by a wild-card team seven times since the wild cards were added to the playoff format in 1995. That means they have won 28% of the time. Six other wild-card teams have also been to the World Series, and lost.

I think the Phillies have a chance in the first round because they should be able to pitch Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in two of the three games even if they need both of them to pitch this weekend in Tampa Bay to clinch a playoff berth. If Wheeler pitches Saturday, he could come back for Game 2 of the first-round series on Oct. 1, and if Nola has to pitch Sunday, he could pitch in Game 3.

I think the Phillies' best chance for a first-round win would be against the Chicago Cubs, who will be either a second or third seed. If the Phillies slip to the eighth seed and have to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round, they’d be in trouble.