Tonight, the Phillies played the Cubs. The Phillies had a rare shot to win four games in a row. Former Oriole Jake Arrieta, reborn with the Cubs, opposed Roberto Hernandez. But all eyes were on Jimmy Rollins, who started the night with one hit to go to tie Mike Schmidt and two hits to go to surpass him. What he started with his first hit on September 17, 2000, he tried to finish tonight. He almost got there, banging a double off the wall in the ninth to tie Schmidt. That's about all of the good news folks. Good god, this was an awful game otherwise.
The game started with a laborious first by Hernandez. He pitched and sweated and sweated and pitched and pitched. He did not get the outside part of the plate, so he kept pitching and sweating and making me sweat watching him. Jesus, he sweats a lot. He should throw spitballs with all that sweat pouring off him.
Hernandez finally ended the inning following a nifty stop by...whoa...Ryan Howard, who dove to his right to spear a grounder. I may have hallucinated this. He lofted an underhanded rain-maker to Hernandez who kind of hustled in his Hernandezian way to cover the bag. He may have been stunned that Howard got to the ball, but...no, really...Howard did get that, didn't he? Well dip me in shit.
The Phillies went quickly against Arrieta in the bottom of the first because, well, Tony Gwynn, Jr., led off, what with his OPS+ of 32. Leading off. He is 0 - 18 in his last 18 at-bats. Or plate appearances. Or whatever those things are. So, since he was leading off tonight, he was assured to get the most
plate appearances at-bats whatever. Those things where the guy stands at the plate and flails helplessly, making an out.
[RtP Note: On June 16th, the day after Father's Day and three days after this game was played, Tony Gwynn died from cancer. Here is coverage. The fact that Tony Gwynn, Jr., could even play this game is a testament to his professionalism and guts. While I did not know about his father's cancer and how dire it was when this recap was written, I feel like a first-rate asshole having written it and now knowing the context.
As fans and writers, we only see part of the "iceberg" that is each player. We do not know what their lives are like, what their daily family and personal stresses are. I suspect that Sandberg and the Phillies knew, and I do not blame them for having Gwynn play, if only to help him have some semblance of routine and normalcy as he watched his father get closer to the end. Please forgive me, if you can, TGJ. I don't deserve it.]
Tony Gwynn, Jr., leading off, got the most chances to stand at the plate, flailing helplessly while making outs because Ryne Sandberg is a new manager who is smarter than that old coot, Charlie Manuel, who must have been stupid because he sounded like a redneck. But Charlie Manuel would not have submitted a line up with Tony Gwynn, Jr. leading off. If Charlie Manuel was a dumb redneck, Ryne Sandberg is a dumber redderneck. I'll skip right to the third inning briefly for narrative purposes in a "flash forward": Gwynn struck out helplessly in the third, also. I know the suspense is killing you, so yes, he did it in the sixth as well. This monster of modern times was stopped only by being lifted for a pinch hitter later on in the game.
Back to the first: Jimmy Rollins came up next. JIMMY ROLLINS. I am eagerly awaiting all the tongue baths he gets from the press when he ties Schmidt, but it was not to be in the first inning. A harmless fly ball to left center was easily corralled for the second out. Chase Utley outed to second to wrap it up.
Hernandez and Arrieta cruised. In the second, Hernandez struck out a pair and induced a ground out to second. Arrieta got two grounders to second and one strike out. Hernandez responded with two more strikeouts and a fly out in the third. Arrieta worked around a walk to Reid Brignac taking a free out from a sacrifice by Hernandez and another free out from the aforementioned Gwynn.
Hernandez walked Anthony Rizzo in the fourth on four pitches. It was not intentional. Of course, Starlin Castro then launched a fly ball that carried and carried and carried into the flower bed in left center. High. School. Field. Cubs, 2 - 0. That was it for the damage, though, thanks in no small part to a nifty cutoff and throw in the outfield by Gwynn, who gunned down Schierholtz at second by throwing to a perfectly placed Utley, who applied the tag after catching the ball cleanly. It was a slick defensive play at both ends.
Rollins started off the fourth inning with a whiff, though he briefly excited the moribund crowd with a foul ball lined into the first base stands. Cameras with ineffectual flashes prematurely ejaculated, capturing a blur of nothing memorable.
God, he's not even hustling to the record, is he?
Utley and Howard grounded out, too.
In the fifth, Reid Brignac made a nifty grab of a liner to third, much to the chagrin of Darwin Barney. He shagged that grin right back to the bench. Arrieta chopped a ball to Rollins deep in the hole. Rollins had to gun it to Howard to get Arrieta. On the 76th pitch of the game, Hernandez was bailed out by a nice catch by Gwynn, who hustled in to scrape a ball off the turf, preventing a hit. Gwynn proved once again why he is a good late-game defensive replacement, because, you know, he can play defense a little, but he CAN'T HIT FOR SHIT, SO WHY IS HE LEADING OFF, FFS?!?!?!?
In the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies, along with Rollins, were still hitless. Domonic Brown fixed this with a chalk line double in the left-field corner. He was stranded there, of course, so the Phillies went into the sixth trailing two - nil.
In the sixth, Roberto Hernandez cruised through the first two hitters, including a nifty stop by Utley to his left on a grounder by Ryan Sweeney. Ryan Howard bailed Utley out on the hurried, crappy throw by diving to stop it while keeping his foot on the bag to retire Sweeney.
home plate umpire drama queen attention whore Mark Ripperger, bored with letting the players decide things on the field, ejected Roberto Hernandez suddenly and without warning following a fastball that ran inside and smacked Castro on the left arm. Of course Castro had homered in his last thingy at the plate, so Ripperger assumed nefarious intent. Managerial-umpiric kabuki theater ensued, with Sandberg getting tossed. Feel free to discuss here, but in my objective opinion, it seemed like the Hernandez ejection was a steaming pile of garbage. Just like Mark Ripperger.
Mario Hollands came in on short notice and saved the day by getting the last out, despite Mark Ripperger's crime against man, nature, puppies and children.
The Phillies responded to this injustice in the bottom of the sixth by rising up and going 1-2-3. Gwynn will haunt my alcohol-induced nightmares tonight. I had hoped that with Sandberg chucked from the game that SOMEONE RATIONAL WOULD PUT A BASEBALL HITTING PLAYER IN FOR GWYNN.
Antonio Bastardo took out the Cubs 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh. And in the eighth, including a strike out of Mike Olt that made me thank god the Phillies didn't trade for Mike Olt a couple of years ago. Sometimes the deals you don't make are as important as the ones you do make. Bastardo, by the way, has been rolling lately, and he kept it up tonight.
The Phillies, having ruminated and seethed and focused their rage from the Hernandez injustice, went 1, 2, infield base hit, 3 in the bottom of the inning. Papa Johns trolled me with the "5 runs by the Phillies, and you get a discount" promotion. Hahahahaha! Seriously, this team is one of the worst offensive teams I can remember seeing in red pinstripes. And this inning featured Utley, Howard, Byrd, and Brown. With the bottom of the order coming up, I'm guessing this was the last shot to get in this game.
In the eighth, the Phillies stirred. Carlos Ruiz lined a single off Pedro Strop, in because Arrieta was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the inning. Ruiz took second on a passed ball after Brignac missed swinging at the dreaded "front foot" slider that bounced at about 59.5 feet. Brigac swings as some of the worst pitches I have ever seen. Someone needs to GIF all his horrible swings into one lovely package, but it might violate the Geneva Conventions. Brignac brig-outed and Ben Revere outed as well. But no worries...John Mayberry came in to save the day. Oy vey. At least it wasn't Gwynn again.
During the break, since it was 1960's throwback night, I reflected on the question of whether the 2014 Phillies more closely resemble the 1961 Phillies (47-107) or the 1969 Phillies (63-99). I think it is the latter, for a variety of reasons. Discuss your reasons for this in the comments if you aren't so drunk that you've blacked out already. If you have blacked out already, even better. You're probably better able to discuss it anyway.
Justin De Fratus came in to clean up the ninth. Rizzo singled. Then, facing the batter in bubble wrap, Starlin Castro, De Fratus came inside once, and was regarded by both Castro and Ripperger. Castro then 6-4-3ed to the delight of the generally disgusted Phillies partisans who remained upright and present. I stood up to cheer, but fell over my dog and spilled my last PBR. De Fratus whiffed Luis Valbuena who was not amused, and cast aside his helmet with apparent disgust at his own inadequacy being exposed before the tens of fans at Citizens Bank Park who themselves had not wandered away in search of malted beverage solace.
The Phillies had to bat once more, according to the conventional rules of Major League Baseball. It was a foregone conclusion that they would fail, and acting manager Larry Bowa tried to concede from the dugout, but the league office did not permit this, even after Bowa requested a review.
Jimmy Rollins, flashing back to the horrors of his inaugural 2000 season and meaningless games for a team going nowhere, came to the plate for one last shot to catch Schmidt tonight. He faced my fantasy team closer, and that of the Cubs, Neil Ramirez. Rollins drilled the second pitch off the wall in right, just fair.
It was worth it. All the rest of the suck tonight. It was worth it. I've loved watching you, man.
And then Jimmy took third with Howard at the plate after an Utley popup. They didn't give him the stolen base, but it was still nice to see him...hustling. Troll those fans, James. Ryan Howard struck out. Marlon Byrd walked on a ball that, well, it was a really close pitch to take with 2 strikes. Yowza. First and third with two outs, Domonic Brown lined a single to right to drive in a run. Byrd went first-to-third and Carlos Ruiz came to the plate. Brown took second on defensive indifference, but it took the force away at second. With the base open and Brignac on deck, I would have walked Ruiz. Ramirez had thrown 25 pitches to this point with Ruiz down 1 - 2, and he dropped in a curve to get Chooch looking.
Ugh. What a tease - the cherry on top of the last inning of a 9 inning shit sandwich.
Fangraph of Umpire Mark Ripperger swinging his wang with more authority than Tony Gwynn, Jr. swings his bat: