The inside-the-park home run is one of the most humiliating plays in baseball. The ball is still in play somewhere, yet, despite the efforts of nine men whose very presence on the field indicates they are among the best at fielding it in the entire world, it can't be recovered in time to prevent an outcome that normally only happens when the ball is in an unattainable spot.
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That's what made it all the more distinct when the World Series started off with one. These are supposedly the best two teams out of the best 30 teams and still they allowed the Royals' Alcides Escobar to circle the bases on the series' first pitch. It was made even more incredible by the fact that Escobar hit it off Matt Harvey, a pitcher so good the Mets don't even let him pitch, and initial fielding mishap - every ITP HR needs one - was committed by Yoenis Cespedes, a man credited with saving the Mets' season.
Naturally, as the nation celebrated, our thoughts turned to the Phillies' version of the same play from earlier in the year that had been quite similar, only, you know; a grand slam.
Aaron Altherr, all 24 years of him, had debuted in the majors about three months prior to the Phillies' Septemeber 25 match-up with the plummeting Nationals. The Phillies will likely see a lot of big league debuts over the next few years. Does that mean they will see an uptick in inside-the-park grand slams? Experts can't deny that the possibility exists. They can't deny it.
Having been disappeared back into the minors, only to return to fill the empty roster spot created by Maikel Franco's wrist problems, Altherr came to the plate with three Phillies somehow protruding off the bases. On first, young starter Jerad Eickhoff, probably more confused than anyone that he had scrambled on base after a sacrifice bunt attempt. Second base featured Cameron Rupp, who had earned his passage with a single. Third base saw Brian Bogusevic, who'd worked a five pitch walk off Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, and like most of the Phillies' base runners who'd reached scoring position this past year, wasn't even really sure where he was supposed to go on a base hit.
Already up 2-1 in the third, the Phillies were doing their best not to move, having somehow gotten the lead and not wanting to scare it off. On the first pitch he saw, Altherr cranked a line drive to center, where Michael Taylor hustled toward it and, perfectly encapsulating the Nationals' season, tried to make a slick diving play, only to miss the target and land on his face.
Being round on all sides, the ball tipped its cap to Taylor and continued on its way, seeking to live out the remainder of the play by the center field wall. Jayson Werth managed to cut it off, but in the mean time, Bogusevic had figured out where he was supposed to go, and Rupp, roughly the size of a stegosaurus, had made it home from second base. Even Eickhoff crossed the plate, wondering if he was even permitted to do so as a rookie.
Then, the moment in which inside-the-parkers are born: Third base coach John Mizerock gave Altherr the green light as he approached third base, and the speedy young outfielder tore home. He would score without a throw, as the Nationals decided their incompetence had made any attempt a waste of time.
Altherr would go on to hit an actual home run two innings later, giving himself 5 RBI on a 4-for-5 night at the plate which also saw him hit a double; a "double" being a potential inside-the-park home run that the defense is actually able to field. The Phillies can look forward to a future full of moments like this, according to experts, who again couldn't disagree that the possibility for this statement to be true exists. And given the pulse that was faintly detected by the Phillies' offense in that moment, it makes sense that the play is up for an award.