It was a great night at Citizens Bank Park. I was there with my extended family - 3 dads (my brother, my brother-in-law, and me) and 6 kids, all 9 or under. What could go wrong?
Well, other than walking up to the gate with tickets for tomorrow instead of tonight (something the wonderful folks at the Phillies ticket office rectified in under 10 minutes), not much. Whatever you think of the Phillies front office over the past decade or so, I have never wavered from this belief: they nailed it with Citizens Bank Park. It's a joy to be at, no matter what the team on the field is doing.
The bonus tonight was that team on the field, the team going into the game with the worst record in baseball, the team without almost all of the marquee names the squad has had over the past several years, put on a really fun show.
The interesting thing is that I'm not entirely sure most of the people in the stadium knew who they were rooting for. I heard many people near me saying "who is that?" when Darnell Sweeney stepped to the plate (before hitting a bullet home run). Or, "who?" when Aaron Altherr fielded the ball (or was thrown out trying to extend a steal of second into a run, after an error on the throw). Tonight was pretty much the perfect example of Jerry Seinfeld's line - we're rooting for laundry. We root for whoever happens to put on a Phillies uniform, no matter that it's very unlikely that any of the guys tonight figure into the next great Phillies team (maybe Ken Giles, but beyond that, not really).
To that end, here are the fourteen Phillies who played tonight, ranked by likelihood that the fans in the stadium knew who the player was when he batted or pitched (let me know in the comments if you agree with this):
But onto the highlights of the game. Darnell Sweeney put the team ahead with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first that was a bullet to left center. The Padres tied it in the fourth with two runs, both close plays at the plate. I'd tell you more, but I was roaming the stadium looking for hot dogs, chicken fingers, and hamburgers for 9 people. Oh, and fries too. All I know is that there was loud cheering then boos then the score was tied 2-2.
The Phillies quickly got the runs back in the bottom of the inning though, thanks to an RBI double by Freddy Galvis, also a bullet to left center, followed by a single from Adam Morgan. The Padres threatened in the seventh off of Jerome Williams and Luis Garcia, but only scored one run on a hit batsman and two singles. Ken Giles closed out the game with an easy ninth inning.
Probably the best part of the game was something alluded to above that didn't figure in the scoring - Aaron Altherr's stolen base in the bottom of the fifth. There were two outs and he stole second easily. The throw from Derek Norris skipped into center field, but slowly enough that it appeared to be in dead man's land. Altherr popped right up and bolted to third base . . . but didn't stop. He saw that the center fielder hadn't gotten to the ball yet and headed to home. To his credit,
Melvin Upton Jr. Justin Upton picked the ball up and threw a strike to home, just nailing Altherr.
When it came down to it, it was probably a stupid play. The Phillies were up 4-2, there were two outs, and they would have had a man on third with Ryan Howard up. But, that really didn't matter tonight. The crowd grew louder and louder as Altherr headed to third, rounded the base, and tried for home. When he was out, everyone groaned but was nonetheless thrilled with the fun play.
From a last place team playing a meaningless game on a late August night with guys who are mostly just filling the red-pin-striped laundry waiting for others to pull on the uniform in future years, is there really much more that you can ask for?
Oh, and bonus: all the cousins in my group made it onto Phanavision. A great night indeed!