Here's hymn to welcome in the day / Heralding a summer's early sway
Yesterday's bout against the University of Tampa aside, the Phillies began their Grapefruit League schedule this afternoon against the Yankees. The weather was sunny, players were wearing sunglasses, and baseballs were traveling in directions numerous and (somewhat) meaningful. It's Spring Training, so we all know that the outcome doesn't matter. That sentiment rings truer for the first game of Spring Training, where the entirety of the joy associated with the game is derived from its mere existence. And the sun, sweet Jesus, the sun.
And all the bulbs all coming in, / To begin / The thrushes bleating battle with the wrens / Disrupts my reverie again
Ryan Howard has been the subject of multitudinous Best Shape of His Life reports for the last week and he lived up to the cliched hype today. He looked leaner than he has at any point in his Major League career, which one can only imagine will help reduce stress on his knee and achilles. In a brief appearance, Howard went 2-for-2 and drove in a run, on a blooper that would have been a routine play with the shift on. Part of the reason Howard out-RBIs his other numbers is that the defense can't put on the Howard shift with runners on. He flashed that ability to break a shiftless defense today.
Pegging clothing on the line / Training jasmine how to vine / Up the arbor to your door, / And more / You're standing on the landing with the war / You shouldered all the night before
For the first 4 innings, we saw from familiar pitching from David Buchanan (2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K) and Jerome Williams (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K). To my eye, Buchanan's 5 hits-against were a mix of bad BABIP luck and some solid contact. He gave up primarily ground balls, though, so the damage was minimal. Williams, on the other hand, looked impressive, inducing weak contact from pretty much everyone. It's Spring Training and all this means nothing. But, spring is also for daydreaming, so let me dream.
And once upon it / The yellow bonnets / Garland all the line / And you were waking / And the day was breaking / A panoply of song / And summer comes to Springville Hill
The Phillies' next two pitchers both were in the Pirates organization last year. First was Joely Rodriguez, who is alternatively known as the guy that came back in the Antonio Bastardo trade. Rodriguez looks like he has the potential to be exciting. In two innings, he gave up no hits while getting one strikeout and one walk. As Matt Winkelman noted on Twitter, he featured a not-straight fastball complimented by a slider that looked to have some serious dive. That kind of two-pitch mix can play for a reliever. He's started a lot in the minors, so time will tell what the future holds for him.
Jeanmar Gomez cruised through the first inning of his two inning stint, surrendering no hits and getting a strikeout for good measure. He got into some trouble in the second inning, loading the bases with only one man out. He got out of it though, coaxing a pop-up and a groundout out of the next two batters to get out of the inning. Gomez has a reputation for outperforming his peripherals and he sure did just that in this small sample.
A barony of ivy in the trees / Expanding out it's empire by degrees / And all the branches burst a'bloom / Into bloom / Heaven sent this cardinal, maroon / To decorate our living room
For some reason I never consciously noticed it last year, but Mario Hollands is a large man. Facing Mason Williams to lead off the inning, Hollands gave up a hard-hit double to right field. The next two batters found Holland's frame too imposing to dare threaten him, with Cole Figueroa humbly grounding out and Cito Culver submitting to a strikeout. The giant Hollands had Jake Cave scared out of his boots, but the latter managed to beat out a weak bouncer, allowing M. Williams to score.
With that, the terror of Hollands was broken. After a single from Name of the Game winner Slade Heathcott, notable Yankees prospect Aaron Judge cleared the bases and tied the game with a homerun that barely eluded the glove of a leaping Aaron Altherr. After Greg Bird, himself a harbinger of spring, roped a double to right-center, Ryno decided he had enough of Holland's antics.
Luis Garcia came on and got a three-pitch swinging strikeout. A little late, a little slow.
And years from now / When this old light isn't ambling anymore / Will I bring myself to write / "I give my best to Springville Hill"
The joy of free baseball beckoned as the Phillies entered the bottom of the 9th tied. But, after the 9th ended after an Aaron Altherr strikeout, the umpires announced that the game was over. I guess tie games are a thing that happen now and Donovan McNabb is the new Commissioner. No word yet on whether this new policy will extend to the All Star game. What I do know, however, is that being able to end on a tie will do wonders for length of game. Extra innings are just a valueless time-suck.