Phillies 2015 – Week Twenty-One
The first-place New York Mets came to town this week for a four game reminder of just who is in charge of this here division. To this point, they had won eight of the nine games in which they had faced the Phillies this season. The only thing worse than suffering more losses to the Mets would be to have Citizen’s Bank Park overrun by thousands of Mets fans. Well …
The Phils jumped all over all-star righthander Jacob deGrom. Ryan Howard, Cameron Rupp and Domonic Brown each went deep as the home team chased deGrom in the third inning after building a 7-2 lead. Rookie Adam Morgan failed to survive the fourth after allowing homers to Juan Lagares (in the third), Wilmer Flores and a monstrous blast into Ashburn Alley by Travis d’Arnaud that closed the lead to 7-5. But, that was just the tip of the historic iceberg that was the Mets lineup. When all was said and done, the visitors from Queens had scored 14 unanswered runs and amassed a team record eight dingers, as part of a league-record-tying 11 taters in a 16-7 blowout. In fact, shortstop Ruben Tejada was the only starter that failed to touch ‘em all, going a conspicuous 0-for-5 while his mates were amassing 20 hits. Mets 16, Phillies 7
Sending Jerome Williams (4-9, 6.10) out to face a lineup that had just hit 8 homers in a 16 run feeding frenzy seemed akin to dropping a lit match at a busy gas station. But, when it’s your turn, you take the ball. Predictably, Yoenis Cespedes went yard in the first as the Mets built an early 3-0 lead. To their credit, the Phightins fought back with a pair of two-run big flies in the bottom of the third, courtesy of Freddy Galvis and Ryan Howard. Leading 4-3 in the sixth, Williams left with one out and two runners on base. Jeanmar Gomez retired Flores on a liner to short, then walked leftfielder Michael Conforto to load the bases for d’Arnaud. The game turned on the 1-2 pitch to the former Phillie farm hand. Gomez appeared to spot his fastball on the outside corner at the knees. But, home plate umpire Dan Bellino didn’t see it that way. When d’Arnaud spit on the next two pitches, the tying run strolled home. Michael Cuddyer followed with a two-run pinch single on an 0-2 pitch that would prove to be the difference. Mets 6, Phillies 5
If there was ever a chance for the Phils to exact some revenge, it seemed to be Wednesday night against Bartolo “Boss Nass” Colon. The age (and apparently gravity) defiant Dominican righthander was 2-4 with an ERA north of 5.00 in his last eight starts. Having racked up 11 runs off of young guns deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the previous games, the table was set for an offensive explosion.
Naturally, Colon cruised through seven scoreless innings, scattering five hits and striking out eight. Meanwhile, Rookie Jerad Eickhoff was making his home debut, looking to build on his solid major-league debut five days earlier in Miami. Things got off on the wrong foot when Odubel Herrera misplayed a fly ball by the game’s first batter, Curtis Granderson, into a two base error. This lit the fuse on a three-run first inning. Impressively, the young righthander was able to settle in and keep his team in the game, tossing zeroes until Juan Uribe’s RBI knock in the sixth made it 4-0. Hector Neris, who struggled throughout the series, was tagged by Cuddyer for a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to give the visitors a six run cushion. In the bottom of the eighth, the overmatched but resilient Phils put together a rally that plated four runs and brought newcomer Darnell Sweeney to the plate representing the go ahead run with two out. Tyler Clippard struck him out to end the threat. Elvis Araujo and Luis Garcia fell victim to some sloppy defense and their own ineffectiveness as the Mets tacked on three in the ninth to close it out. Mets 9, Phillies 4
For the second time in the series the Phillies spotted their starter with a five run lead. This time a Darin Ruf blast capped a five run third inning. Unfortunately, starter Aaron Harang was unable to pay it off, allowing homers to d’Arnaud, Cespedes and Kelly Johnson that tied the game at 5-5. Having scored 57 runs over the course of three and a half games, both teams appeared to pack it in, offensively speaking, as the score remained the same until the 13th inning. Even then nobody hit the ball very hard. Mets’ reliever Carlos Torres led off with a ‘thousand hopper’ that Galvis was only able to flag down behind second. Granderson followed with a flared single to left. Cespedes hit a lazy fly to right for the first out. Daniel Murphy, who had made a mind-boggling play at first to end the tenth inning, sliced a double into the leftfield corner that scored Torres and Granderson. David Wright then clearly hit a ball off of his left instep that should have been deadened and called foul. But, Alfonso Marquez missed it and Neris continued his waking nightmare by picking up the resulting dribbler and firing it past Ruf down the rightfield line, allowing Murphy to race home. Conforto followed with a single to score Wright and the sweep was complete. Mets 9, Phillies 5
If there was one team that the Phillies could have asked to play after the debacle they had just experienced, it would be the San Diego Padres. Since the two franchises each christened new ballparks in 2004, the Phillies have owned the Friars to the tune of a 53-23 record. Aaron Nola would be looking to build on his brilliant eight inning blanking of the Miami Marlins against a Padre lineup that had been disappointingly unproductive for most of the season. This one went pretty much according to the script. The rookie allowed only two hits in seven solid innings, one of those was a solo dinger by Justin Upton in the fourth inning. He left a 2-1 lead in the hands of Williams, who had been demoted to the bullpen. In his first relief appearance in recent memory, the pink-gloved righthander retired the bottom of the lineup in order. In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies’ bats came to life as a single by Herrera, an Aaron Altherr triple, a double by Jeff Francoeur and a home run by Rupp gave the fans the thrill of a team cycle and blew the game wide open. Williams was sent out to finish the game and did so with a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save since July 30, 2012 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Phillies 7, Padres 1
The season’s 130th game pitted rookies Colin Rea and Adam Morgan against each other. Darnell “the guy from the Utley trade” Sweeney got things going in the second inning when he smoked the first pitch he saw form Rea over the indigenous flora of the left centerfield wall for a two-run tater. The Padres answered with two unearned runs in the top of the fourth to tie it up. But, in the bottom half Morgan followed Galvis’ RBI double with a bleeder of an RBI single up the middle to restore his two-run cushion. The pen allowed a single run in the seventh, but were able to get the lead to closer Ken Giles, who locked down his 11th save in as many tries. Phillies 4, Padres 3.
The Phillies sent rookie Alec Asher to the hill, making his major-league debut, in hopes of securing their fifth series sweep off the season (they have been swept nine times). Asher, the second piece of the Cole Hamels trade to debut for the Phils this year, is a 6-foot-4 righty from Lakeland, Florida. Any jitters he may have been feeling were violently shaken out of him when his 1-0 fastball to Matt Kemp was launched over the fence in left. Like Eickhoff before him earlier in the week, Asher settled in and started to grind his way through. His battery mate, Rupp, who has quietly become a very productive piece of the lineup since his playing time has expanded (.340, 6 HR, 14 RBI in August), got one of the runs back with a solo bomb to right. But, San Diego had their prize off-season acquisition “Big Game” James Shields pitching and he was dealing, striking out eight Phillies and allowing only seven base runners in seven innings. Shields even chased Asher from the game when he poked a 2-2 pitch into centerfield for an RBI single with two out in the sixth inning. The Phils managed to tag the Padres pen for three late runs, but their relievers were torched for five and their modest two-game winning streak ended abruptly. Padres 9, Phillies 4.
It’s painful to say it, of course, but that is a damn fine baseball team they’re fielding up there in Queens. When you look at the last two seasons, it is easy to see the glaring differences between the two teams in New York’s 25-7 record. What made this week so excruciating was that each game was arguably winnable, even Wednesday night, when they couldn’t hit Colon, they managed to get into the pen and make a game of it. Conversely, in San Diego, you see a team that reached for it too soon and missed. They made huge deals for Shields, Craig Kimbrel and Kemp as if they were the final pieces to a championship. But, they are languishing just below .500 as the Giants and Dodgers battle above them.
Looking ahead –
One more dance with the Metropolitans, this one a three gamer in Flushing. It would be nice to pay a little back. But, it is a tall order against a team that is firing on all cylinders. Then, it’s three games at Fenway Park in Boston against a disappointing Red Sox team that features Joe Kelly, the first pitcher to post a 6-0 month for a last place team since Sam McDowell of the Cleveland Indians in June 1969.
Singular Sensation of the Week –
Before his one-out single off of Colin Rea Saturday night, rookie Aaron Altherr had amassed four doubles, a triple and two home runs, making him the first Phillie rookie to ever start his career with seven extra-base hits. No rookie has done that in all of major league baseball since Carlos Gonzalez broke in with the 2008 Oakland A’s.
‘Oh, really?? Well, nevermind’ of the Week –
With the Phils’ rotation boasting four rookies (Nola, Morgan, Asher & Eickhoff) and sending rookies to the hill in all three games of a series, we at The Cave got to wondering when was the last time this happened. Our search took us all the way back to August of 2015, when the Cincinnati Reds started a rookie pitcher in EVERY GAME OF THE MONTH!!!!