It was an insane year from start to finish - NASA sent a rocket to Pluto, North Korea was tinkering with their first nuclear toy, and in a somewhat even more disastrous development, four web developers came forward with their plan to launch an interface called "Twitter."
And on a spring evening in the middle of April, Ryan Howard was slotted into the seven-hole of the Philadelphia Phillies' lineup between David Bell and Sal Fasano.
Eight years and 360 days later, the Phillies decided to replicate that offensive attack as best they could (Howard went 2-for-4 with a double last time!) Seeing Ryne Sandberg's submitted lineup with Howard batting seventh, Scott Franzke could only call it "uh... different," as the Phillies threw their bodies onto the gears of Washington's baseball machine.
Yunel Escobar knocked Cole Hamels' literal first offering out of the park before the broadcasters could announce when the Home Run Payoff Inning was. Hamels has given up six home runs in 2015, something he didn't do last year until we were all long dead.
The Phillies' latest bunting miscarriage seemed to end something close to a threat in the third inning, as Darin Ruf's leadoff double appeared wasted when Hamels fielder's choiced him at third. No one could blame Hamels for being a bit scattered tonight as we all wrapped our heads around Howard's place in the lineup.
Fortunately, Freddy Galvis tripled in Hamels to tie the game at 1-1. The Nationals are always good for at least one sloppy inning, and Michael Taylor provided it in the fourth by letting a Carlos Ruiz fly ball hit him in his his glove (he was likely still grappling with the fact that Howard was hitting seventh), which led to a Darin Ruf sac fly to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
After the initial home run, Hamels kept striking out Nationals and had six K's before the end of the fourth inning, getting Ryan Zimmerman on what Washington's first baseman thought was the third out and made a fool of himself, tossing his helmet and gloves aside in frustration prematurely. In fact, it was only moments later that Wilson Ramos would feed Darin Ruf a sinking line drive that eluded Ruf's desperate belly flop and allowed Bryce Harper to score from second following a walk and a balk.
Runs trickled in, then, all from the Nationals' bats; Taylor homered in the fifth, Zimmerman doubled in Harper and Jayson Werth in the sixth on a play in which Jeff Francoeur missed every cutoff man with a throw from right field.
"That was great," breathed a sexually gratified F.P. Santangelo, the score now 5-2.
Phillies seven-hole hitter Ryan Howard made a nice diving stop at first base. Try to focus on good stuff like that, or Raul Ibanez joining Twitter.
The Phillies went 0-for-5 with RISP and left seven men on base. "Gotta figure out a way to get those runs across," advised Larry Andersen. I suggest with baseball bats.