Phillies 2015 – Week Twenty-Four
First, a Phillies team hoping to hold on to their last shreds of dignity hosted a Washington Nationals team that was grasping for its last chance at the division title. Then, they headed south to face off with the Braves in Atlanta for a series that featured the two worst records in baseball.
A game of ‘Catch Up’ raged out of control as the Phillies tried to match the Nats in the opener. The visitors led 1-0, 2-1 and 6-2. Each time, the home team pulled even. Homers by Ryan Howard and Cody Asche answered bombs by Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and a grand slam by former Phillie Jayson Werth as the game rolled into extra innings tied at 6-6. Werth struck again with a solo shot in the 10th that handed a 7-6 lead to our old friend Jonathan Papelbon. To the abundant delight of Philies fans everywhere, Freddy Galvis touched up the Washington closer for a dinger of his own to tie it up one more time at 7-7. But, after the Nationals scratched out an unearned run in the top of the 11th off of Luis Garcia, they were finally out of answers. Nationals 8, Phillies 7
For reasons that deny explanation, David Buchanan was back on the mound for the Phillies. Refreshingly, he didn’t pitch that badly. Apart from a solo homer in the first and an RBI single in the third, both by Harper, he held his own. On the other side of the ledger, Stephen Strasburg was showing the dominant skills that made him the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. He allowed only a walk to Galvis and a single by Asche while fanning 14 through eight masterful innings. Harper added a second bomb to close things out. Nationals 4, Phillies 0
Having been shutout for the 12th time this season, the Phils sent rookie Alec Asher to the hill in hopes of avoiding the sweep. Asher has struggled in his brief time in the show (0-3, 10.67). After allowing single runs in the second and fourth, the rookie was granted a brief reprieve when Darin Ruf smashed a 2-run homer to tie the game at 2-2. The visitors responded with two runs in the fifth, two more in the sixth, two in the seventh, three in the eighth and one for good measure in the ninth. Meanwhile, lefty Gio Gonzalez was finding his groove. The former Phillie farm hand struck out 12 in seven innings. In fact, the Phillies were fanned 42 times in the three game set to set a dubious team record. The blowout closed out the series as the Phillies were swept for the 12th time. Nationals 12, Phillies 2
With their tragic number dwindled down to 9, our heroes headed to Atlanta. Young arms Adam Morgan and Aaron Nola would each be looking to shrug off difficult outings against the dangerous but underperforming Braves. Jerad Eickhoff, on the other hand, would be hoping to carry over the momentum of his strong start against the Chicago Cubs.
Morgan battled through six innings, allowing only two runs. But, as he did on Labor Day, Braves rookie Williams Perez dragged a 5.00+ ERA out to the mound with him and proceeded to stymie the Phils’ lineup. Perez allowed only a solo homer by Cameron Rupp. Five Atlanta relievers held it down as the Braves took the opener by the slimmest of margins. Braves 2, Phillies 1
Eickhoff was brilliant, striking out five and scattering five hits across seven scoreless innings. He bequeathed a 1-0 lead to Jerome Williams. The pink-gloved righthander continued his Summer of Relentless Mediocrity. He only needed to face three hitters to undo what Eickhoff had done. A single by Nick Markakis and a walk issued to Hector Olivera brought Freddie Freeman to the plate. The lanky, lefthanded-hitting first baseman drove a 3-2 pitch over Darnell Sweeney and off of the leftfield wall. Both runners hustled home and, for the second night in a row, a solid start went unrewarded. Braves 2, Phillies 1
Nola allowed hits to the first three Braves he faced, resulting in a single first inning run, before settling into an effective rhythm. His counterpart, Julio Teheran, on the other hand was locked in from the first pitch. The 24-year-old Colombian righthander retired the first 18 batters he faced. One of those hitters, rookie Odubel Herrera was visibly frustrated by his pop up to end the fourth. He violently threw his bat before dropping his head and sloughing toward first base. Interim Manager Pete Mackanin decided that the youngster needed a reminder of what a professional should do in that situation and deposited Herrera on the bench for the remainder of the afternoon. The Phillies finally got to Teheran in the ninth when they chased him after one-out hits by Aaron Altherr and Brian Bogusevic. Andres Blanco singled off reliever Peter Moylan to score Altherr and tie the game. A. J. Pierzinski’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth walked off the game and the series sweep for the Braves. Strangely, all three games finished with the same score. Braves 2, Phillies1
Dropping six consecutive games has made the prospect of a 100 loss season a very real possibility. At 56-94, they need to win seven of their last twelve to avoid that fate. It seems inconceivable that only four seasons ago this was a 100 win team. In the meantime, the performances of Harper and Strasburg this week showed us all what can be done when the first overall pick pays off.
Looking ahead –
Three in Miami and three in D.C. as the Phils close out the road portion of their schedule. Their 23-52 record away from home is frankly laughable. But, a few wins this week could spruce it up and slow their trudge to 100.
Coming of Age Story of the Week –
Bryce Harper’s home run off of Aaron Nola on Monday night was the 92nd of his major league career. But, it was the first he had ever hit against a pitcher that was younger than he was. They grow up so fast …
Runners-Up of the Week –
Let’s take a minute to recognize the Reading Fightin’ Phils’ tremendous season. They started hot, but cooled when promotions and injuries thinned their talent pool. But, the infusion of prospects from the Cole Hamels trade sparked a strong finish and a berth in the Eastern League Championship Series. They took a 2-1 series lead against the Bowie Bay Sox after a Game 3 win in Bowie. But, the young Baltimore Orioles’ prospects stiffened and went on the offensive, winning 9-1 and 7-2 to take the Best-of-Five series and their first ever Eastern League title. The next generation of Phillies earned some valuable experience and gained priceless confidence during a memorable summer. Well done, boys!!!