Our hero. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
This evening found the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta playing the Braves. IT WAS A PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE, meaning, of course, that the stadium was packed with several Braves fans desperate to enjoy nearly division-leading baseball from the Braves and to spend an evening with a hometown Hall of Fame third baseman, though Juan Francisco's career trajectory is admittedly not yet obvious.
Cole Hamels pitched for the Phillies, and his performance was less than crisp, though the results through five innings were decent. His pitch count hit 90 through the fifth inning, but he had surrendered only one run on a homer to the lumberjackian Brian McCann. In the sixth, Hamels loaded the bases, partly as a result of a walk to McCann and a "just missed it" ball off the bat of Matt Diaz that Freddy Galvis couldn't quite rope in. When Hamels left after the sixth, the game was tied and his line was: 6 IP, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K and 1 HR surrendered, all on 108 pitches.
His opponent for the evening was on Brandon Beachy, who was Beachyian, except for the fourth inning where he was slayn not by the Phillies so much as friendly fire resulting from the "defense" of Matt Diaz, who lollygagged a single by Hunter Pence into a double, and Martin Prado, whose minor error robbed Ty Wigginton of an RBI when Hunter Pence (who would have scored anyway) was ruled to have scored on the error. Otherwise, Beachy managed to control the explosive Phillies offense to the tune of 7 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K, and 0 HR.
Given Hamels' inefficiency tonight, it was inevitable that the game would be decided by bullpennery, which did not appear to favor the Phillies, especially with the Braves possessing the last turn at bat and a pretty awesome bullpen. So how did the bullpen death march work out?
In the seventh inning, the Phillies brought in Antonio Bastardo, who has been inconsistent so far this year. His first hurdle was Jack Wilson, pinch hitting for Beachy. Wilson was dispatched by a long fly out after an 8 pitch at bat. MIchael Bourne came up next and struck out looking. Martin Prado was quickly dispatched, flying out to center without much excitement. Round 1 of Bullpen Death Match? To the Phillies and Antonio Bastardo.
The Braves responded with Jonny Venters, who induced a ground out off the bat of Freddy Galvis. John Mayberry, Jr., then pinch hit for Bastardo, and he dropped a double over the head of Freddy Freeman and legged it out to second. This put the go-ahead run at second, and brought the most-selfish player in Philadelphia sports to the plate. Rollins selfishly looped a base hit into left, moving Mayberry to third. Up came Placido Polanco with one out. There was a conspicuous absence of Tomahawk Chopping at this point. Sadly, Polanco struck out as Rollins selfishly ran on the pitch, stealing. BUT WAIT!!!
The pitch to Polanco was so nasty that it struck out Polanco AND Brian McCann. The ball got by McCann for a wild pitch, and Mayberry scooted home to put the Phillies up 3 - 2. Shane Victorino, who earlier had an entertaining 10+ pitch at-bat against Brandon Beachy, came up with two outs and hit a ball off Venters' foot. Victorino reached first safely and advanced Rollins, who did not thank him, to third. Now 18 pitches into his evening, Venters faced Hunter Pence, who grounded the ball through the right side, scoring the selfish Rollins and advancing Victorino to third.
At this stage, Fredi Gonzalez came to get Venters. Still there was no Tomahawk Chopping by the capacity crowd at Turner Field. Kris Medlen cleaned up Venters' mess by whiffing Wigginton. Round 2 of Bullpen Death Match went to the Phillies, but there was much Bullpennery to be had yet, including the ever-exciting Chad Qualls, owner of the 5.59 FIP going into tonight.
Qualls was scheduled to face Freeman, McCann, and Uggla, all of whom I would rather have seen Papelbon deal with, but what do I know about bullpen use? Freeman singled. McCann hit a grounder to Rollins who selfishly refused to feed the ball to Galvis. Instead, he showboated by stepping on second and threw to first to complete the double play. Again, there was very little Tomahawkery, even after Uggla hit a single, extending the inning and bringing Matt Diaz to the plate. Qualls walked Diaz 4 - 0 in a tomb-like stadium. Juan Francisco came up, waggling his bat like an exhibitionist, but struck out nonetheless. Round 3 of Bullpen Death Match to the Phillies.
Medlen stayed in the game and faced Juan Pierre, hitting for Qualls. Pierre flied out harmlessly. Medlen gave up singles to Carlos Ruiz and Freddy Galvis, but escaped harm when Mayberry hit into a double play. Round 4 to the Braves, who would need to knock out Jonathan Papelbon to pull out a victory.
Starting the ninth for the Braves was our old friend, Eric Hinske, who obliged by flying out to left. Jack Wilson popped out to Ruiz for the second out. Surprisingly, the first two outs took less than an hour. Michael Bourne struck out to close out the game, and unexpectedly the Phillies won this game of Bullpen Death Match against the Braves, lifting the Phillies .500 on the year.
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