This was probably the longest day of the year for most fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. An era ended, and a new one began. Fans said goodbye to Shane Victorino, who sailed into the west today, leaving behind memories of playoff wins past. Fans likely ushered Hunter Pence out the door and helped him to pack, though all he did was to play hard, accept his role, and produce at an above-average level for the better part of a year. Blame the trade, not the player.
Still, there was baseball to be played, even if the makeup of the team became more Schierholztian overnight. No matter how most of the fans, or perhaps players, felt, Cliff Lee came to play baseball tonight. Whatever, indeed. It was vintage ZOMG CLIFF LEE!!!! I missed that a little this year.
Oh yeah, and Domonic Brown played tonight. And hit. So did Jimmy Rollins who was not traded. So did my new favorite baseball player, Bryce Harper, whose .34 of WAR on the night should appear at this website in stats for the year. Juan Pierre had an adventurous, positive night on the basepaths. Kevin Frandsen played a solid third base and hit a home run. Yes, it is allowed in the rules for a third baseman to hit extra base hits on non-2,000th hits. Much of the offense was against the very excellent Stephen Strasburg, making it that much more delicious. The icing on the cake was that it took place in the Phillies' overflow home stadium in DC. It was just a wonderful night, and it was FULL OF WIN. And CLIFF LEE11111 It's been too long...
So how did this all happen? And how are you going to order and cull the list of many highlights?
First off in the second, Kevin Frandsen hit his 8th major league home run. It was his first as a Phillie and gave the Phillies a 2 - 0 lead on Strasburg, who always figures to be stingy. In the third, Juan Pierre reached on a single, stole second, and stole third. On the steal of third, the ball was airmailed to left, and Pierre scampered home with another run.
In the fourth, John Mayberry doubled, and Cliff Lee came to the plate. His single to right drove home Mayberry to make it 4 - 0. Strasburg, paying less attention to Lee than Hamels paid to Bryce Harper earlier in the year, let Lee get a huge jump, and Lee stole second.
Possibly frustrated by this point, Strasburg made a mistake to Jimmy Rollins, who drilled a ball off the wall in right. Bryce Harper misplayed it terribly, allowing the ball to hit high and hard off the wall, bouncing back into right field. Harper rolled around on the ground, stunned for a moment, but hopped up and ran after it. J-Stroll casually trotted around the bases for a stand-up inside the park home run. Harper's misplay was transformed nearly instantly into a GIF, immortalizing it along with Kate Upton's bounce, Raul Ibanez' lawn dart, and Harper's All Star Muff.
At this point, I'd like to digress and thank Bryce Harper for saving baseball for me. This year has been so miserable, so frustrating, that watching baseball has, at times, been an absolute chore. With the catharsis I experienced today after the trades, I wasn't sure how much fun baseball would be tonight. It was loads of fun. And, Mr. Harper, seeing you bounce off the wall after sort of jumping up onto it like a yearling stallion trying to mount a mare and then getting bucked off, well, you just made my day. That clown play (bro) reminded me how much I love baseball. Thanks, man. You are the best.
After Rollins' homer, it was 6-0, and the game was over. It remained to watch some nifty plays at third by Frandsen. You know: the sort of plays where a third baseman catches the ball and makes outs. In other words, he played nothing like Mike Fontenot or Ty Wigginton, neither of whom was traded today, regrettably.
After Cliff Lee pitched through seven innings on 103 pitches (1 walk, 5 hits, 7 strikeouts, no homers, and no runs), he was lifted for a pinch hitter. And who to my wondering eyes did appear but Domonic Brown my triple A dear. He blorped a single through a hole in the infield for his first hit of the year. But he did it with confidence and authoritah! At the end of the night, his OPS of 2.000 leads Mike Trout and Bryce Harper COMBINED. Let *that* sink in for a while.
Even the bullpen could not soil itself tonight. Ky Young extended his scoreless inning streak to 2,193 innings, Antonio Bastardo was effective, and Michael Schwimer (who I think may be finding his stroke, so to speak) struck out the side in the ninth.
I was reminded tonight that when Cliff Lee is "on" that there is nobody in baseball who is better. Seven scoreless innings. Never in trouble. Whiffed 7 and walked 1. Singled, drove in a run, stole a base, and scored. He is an amazing, amazing player. Nobody does what he did tonight. Nobody.
All in all, there were lots of highlights, lots of fun moments (Henri Rodriguez airmailed a ball into the screen in the late innings at one point, causing a mirthful flinch of a fan in the path of the ball as one example), and the Phillies showed all of us what we can expect from them next season. For whatever reason, this season was a nightmare. But at least we can relax now, enjoy the rest of 2012, and have fun dreaming on what could be in 2013.
The best part of all of it, besides that fact that it's not January and there's baseball to watch, is that Domonic Brown is finally assured of getting a legitimate shot. That was a step that needed to be taken, and it's good to see that it is finally happening. Carpe diem, kiddo.
Fangraph of Natitude!: