Imagine, if you will, a flat field fanning out from a single home, across which competitive commerce tracks pitches, swings, and steps, toward walls and seats ascending skyward but directed earthward, casting shadows within whose shade we find the outline of players and the idea of a game, of play. Enclosed from the horizon it is a landscape that rebukes the azure and ochre sky of the presummer afternoon with verdant sod that climbs up the kelly walls and embeds the coordinated artifice in the very earth out of which the sod can stubbly spring. This humble hovel housed yet another paean to the ephemeral today on the same soil where seemingly long ago the momentary overflowed into the historic with a win on the last day of the baseball season and convoked a championship harvest.
This is the story of a single win running in a river of immemorable games that are nevertheless in their totality incommunicable in isolation from our anticipation of future memorable games. There were several noteworthy plays and a handful of moments of excitement and joy but no climax, and afterward each team returned to its predetermined trajectory: one to vie for hegemony and against it, the other to wait for the constellation of league power to fluctuate. According to these trajectories and today at their intersection we discover meaning even though oblivion will soon obscure the events.
Before Sean O'Sullivan delivered the game's opening offering, the on-lookers chattered about a sweep and the embarrassment of no longer even rivaling a despised rival. Afterwards expectations changed little. O'Sullivan surrendered 3 runs in his first 3 innings, encouraging pessimists throughout his outing by failing to strike anyone out and suffering 9 baserunners over 6 innings. Yet by dint of fortune more than guile O'Sullivan allowed no more runs after the third inning and earned a quality start. He opened a path for a late charge around the bases and hints of a fecund future.
To begin the Phillies did not allow the Giants to build their start into a big lead. As soon as the Giants scored a run, the Phillies responded with their own: 2 in the second and 1 in the third. In these runs the young and future Phillies played crucial roles. After Ryan Howard singled in the second, Maikel Franco pulled in his hands and slashed them across the plate, ricocheting a high-inside fastball down the LF-line for a double. Apparently, his arm-bar did not slow his extension on that pitch. Cody Asche then lofted a gentle single, driving in both runs.
The Phillies took a brief lead in the game, immediately reversed by O'Sullivan in the next half inning. But, like the dialectic of history on the smallest possible scale, Odubel Herrera returned the game to even with a drive that surpassed the verdant sod and the kelly walls and even the Phillies bullpen in centerfield. Scouts have compared Herrera's power to Ben Revere's, but I doubt Ben Revere could hit a MLB pitch 430 ft. barely to the pull-side. If Herrera can access that swing more often, his future on the Phillies might be much more substantial than we have yet expected.
With that home run, Herrera erased the immediate effect of a bad umpiring decision in the top of the inning. With one out and Angel Pagan on second, Buster Posey hit a hard groundball to Freddy Galvis. Pagan broke for third and Galvis smartly threw a strike to Franco, who had reacted slowly and did not quite reach third base in time to straddle it. Consequently, he had to extend his glove to the outside of the base in order to tag Pagan.
Initially, Pagan was ruled out but replays showed that he had beaten Franco's tag. However, the replays did not show whether Pagan maintained contact with the bag throughout the tag. Nevertheless, the review crew in New York ruled that Pagan was safe. It is possible that the third base umpire told the review crew that Pagan did not lose contact with the base, which would justify the reviewing decision. But absent that kind of input, the review crew inexplicably reversed the burden of proof after Pagan reached the base. It would be great for MLB to explain how that decision was reached. For fear of death, I will not hold my breath.
The game proceeded uneventful through the middle three innings. And as the 7th inning began, one could sense that the time for talent and skill to determine the outcome was fast dwindling and this game was entering the jurisdiction of a quantum indeterminacy machine. A conspiracy of quarks might upend the Giant's march toward a sweep, and so it did when Jeff Francoeur drove a double barely over Matt Duffy's leaping stretching stab at sizzled air.
But I have gotten ahead of myself. Before Francoeur's double could plate two runs and plant the Phillies in a lead unrelinquished, the runners had to get themselves in position. They did so in two very unlikely ways. First, Freddy Galvis broke his 31 AB hitless streak with a line shot into right-centerfield. After a walk and a disappointing Ruf double-play, Bruce Bochy decided to intentionally walk Ben Revere. With Galvis on third, Bochy preferred a lefty against Herrera to a righty against Revere. In other words, he fell prey to the fallacy of the false dilemma, for he could have had a lefty against Revere or, at any rate, a wasted pinch hitter who would be intentionally walked. Instead, Bochy proved why intentional walks should be used less often than they are.
Meanwhile, Ken Giles, having entered the game to extract the Phillies from a jam created by Elvis Araujo in the 7th, shut down the Giants in the 8th. Where we were once wringing our hands at Giles diminished velocity and outs without dominance, we can now, I think, fold them calmly. Giles struck out three batters in 5 outs and with his final pitch touched 97 MPH as Andrew Susac whiffed.
Not to be forgotten amidst the miniature heroics, in the bottom of the 8th Maikel Franco thwacked a Jeremy Affedlt pitch over to the deepest part of the CBP. Having crossed the plate, he skipped as he high-fived his teammates because it is fun to hit dingers.
The final run made it so Jonathan Papelbon's escapades in the ninth inning induced less anxiety. On the first batter he made an error covering first and that runner eventually scored. Moreover, he allowed two more runners to reach scoring position before finally striking out the last batter of the game. But you know what the wise say about things that end well.
We will not remember this game in three years. Whether Franco, Herrera, Asche, and Giles are leading the Phillies to the postseason or frustrating our hopes further, this game will not rise to prominence in the narrative of that team. But as we search for signs that herald hope in our anticipations, we can say at least that here we found some signs and perhaps a wonder or two. May they now sink away amidst a torrent of countervailing and reinforcing symbols ensconced by the field beneath Ashburn Alley.
Comment of the Game: "J.P. Crawford’s day: 4 hits, 2 doubles, a homerun, 3 RBIs, 1 stolen base." --bap
The championships-to-come are ever arriving.