As many baseball fans discovered earlier this season during the Orioles-White Sox game that took place in a Camden Yards that was closed to the public due to the riots that were taking place in the surrounding city, there is a certain beauty to watching a game of baseball being played in a near-silent atmosphere. Under far less unfortunate circumstances, Phillies fans were treated to a similar experience this afternoon as, by some estimates, 1,200 or so fans showed up to watch the Phillies play the Mets in a near-meaningless October baseball game.
Because of the different context and the 1,200 members of the public who did attend, the atmosphere was less eerie and more like a blank canvas upon which humor could be strewn and observed by all viewers of the game. And strewn humor was as fans took the opportunity to offer #analysis.
Perhaps inspired by this fan and his spot-on commentary, the Phillies were able to win their fourth game in a row and finish a sweep of the division-leading Mets (that still feels weird to type).
Jerad Eickhoff came out, much like he has in all his starts since joining the Phillies, ready to dominate. Aside from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who roped two doubles off Eickhoff, the Mets were unable to figure him out at all. Jee-rad gave up two non-Nieuwenhuis hits, struck out 10 Mets and gave up no runs over seven innings. He was working his curveball down in the zone and the Mets were unable to do anything with it.
It is important to keep in mind that, two months ago, Eickhoff was universally regarded as the fourth best piece to come back from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. That was a time when the public was not aware of his curveball, which, especially over the past couple starts, has been devastating. It has great break, and probably more importantly, he appears to have the ability to locate it well. If this is what Eickhoff really is and he still ends up as the fourth-best player in return for Hamels, Ruben Amaro, Jr. will have done quite well indeed in that trade.
On the offensive side, Darin Ruf continued his late-season surge that will surely draw the excitement of callers-in to talk radio across the Lehigh Valley. After Jeff Francoeur recorded the first Phillies hit of the game off Sean Gilmartin with a double with two outs in the 4th inning, the Babe swatted a big ole dinger into the empty seats of left field.
With Ryan Howard not getting younger--or better--and no compelling first base prospects on the horizon, Ruf's recent performance will likely tickle the loins of many a Phillies fan. Since August 27th (arbitrary), Ruf has 7 home runs and, entering today, a .240/.313/.507 line good for a 122 wRC+. Is Darin Ruf the first baseman of the Phillies future? Almost certainly not. But until that (likely) guy comes along, a Ruf/Howard platoon might just be serviceable enough that first base will not be the primary motivation for Phillies fans bleeding from their eyeballs.
While fun was certainly to be had, there are far more pressing matters at play in this meaningless baseball game. Entering play, the Phillies held a two-game "lead" on the Cincinnati Reds for the top pick in next June's MLB Draft. When I wrote on Tuesday abut what was at stake over the final week of the season, I presented the Reds as an afterthought to challenge the Phillies crown of shit. But now we find ourselves in a situation where the Reds have lost their last 11 games and, of this writing, are on pace to make it 12. If current results hold, the Phillies will only have a one game "lead" on the Reds heading into their final three-game series against the Marlins. The Reds will play the Pirates over their final three games, so that grip on the number one pick is by no means secure.
While the difference in quality between the first and second picks in this upcoming draft doesn't figure to be of the franchise-altering kind--there are no Harpers or Strasburgs in this particular draft--the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is the Phillies 2015 season appears to be getting just a bit dimmer as we draw near to it.