As the game began Phils fans received more 2015ish news.
#Phillies left-hander Mario Hollands had successful Tommy John surgery on his left elbow today, performed by Dr Michael Ciccotti.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 8, 2015
RHPs Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez & Ethan Martin had MRI's today each revealing right shoulder inflammation. Both will be shut down for 2-3 weeks— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 8, 2015
If these were prospects that anyone expected would be part of the next winning Phillies team, we would have reason to be disappointed. But MAG's ceiling has sagged; Martin's return from injury last season portended mediocrity; and Mario Hollands has always been Mario Hollands, even in Texas at the beginning of 2014. So, while I feel sad for these players because their maladies have interrupted their dreams, I also feel shrug.
Yup, you know it's 2015 when you are spending much of your time looking for reasons rather than weighing them. Fortunately, Aaron Harang, the Harangutang, provided reasons from the first pitch on. He took a perfect game into the 4th, long enough to make you reconsider your rational position on superstition but not long enough to make you think you might be watching history and the highlight of the 2015 season. He left the game after 19 outs, having struck out 8 and walked just one. It seemed to me he did a great job using his fastball to get ahead and had more movement on his curve (slurve?) than I remember. I cross my fingers that he can approximate this performance for 3 months and then get traded for the most precious commodity: people between the ages of 18 and 22. I also disavow all superstitions.
Harang's performance aside, we also saw other #2015Events. The Phillies scored their first runs of the season and it only took 15 innings: 3 runs, all at once, on a Jeff Franceour home run to the deep LCF alley. #2015Events indeed. The Phils added another run—they scored twice in the same game!—on a Chase Utley sac fly that I thought was a homer off the bat. The wind seemed to knock it down, which I would complain about but for a Hanley Ramirez blast off of Jonathan Papelbon in the 8th that would have been a grand slam 20 rows deep in LF if the wind hadn't pressed its arc toward the base of the wall and into Revere's glove. Thanks to the wind, the Phillies held a 4-2 lead after eight innings, which would hold up. And no one else had been reported injured! (Oh yeah, Herrera has a sore foot and is day-to-day but entered the game as a defensive replacement. I'm not sure if I should use a contrastive ‘but' there. More on that presently.)
All in all, today's was an unexpectedly fun game. Harang pitched excellently, the Phillies scored some runs, and they beat PorceLOL. But Ryne Sandberg could not allow us our uncomplicated joy. Instead, he decided to use his ailing set-up man and brightest youngster on the roster, Ken Giles, in the 8th inning even though Giles labors through every pitcher and is missing about 5 mph on his fastball. Giles managed to get 2 outs and might have completed the inning without surrendering any runs if Ruf hadn't booted a ball to start the frame. But he didn't look himself getting those outs. His slider still looked devastating against David Ortiz. But without his dominant fastball he seemed unable to generate bad swings. And he had a lot of trouble finding the zone. Giles is hurt. Why is he pitching? Like, at all? In 2015 what's the point of gritting through any pain that might, even indirectly, cause further, more serious damage?
The Phillies have a chance to win this series tomorrow. Go Phils. Boo Sox.