The Phillies don't have a lot of luck when entering the ninth inning, down a run, already this season. As a team with a degenerative offense and weak bullpen, it's not exactly their prime time. So what in god's name were people doing, sticking around while the Phillies entered their final at-bat of the day, down 4-3 to the Padres and facing Fernando Rodney?
Well, for starters, it was the first time all year the team was playing in front of a majority of their own fans. The home opener brought an enthusiasm and crowd size to the park that may not even be sustained into tomorrow night.
Also, Aaron Nola and the bullpen had held the Padres to just the four runs, keeping the Phillies' offense within striking distance all afternoon. Nola's second start wasn't as quite as charming as his first, with four earned runs tainting his clean reputation. However, he once again walked no one and actually struck out more Padres than he did Reds with nine K's. He's the only man in the sport right now with double-digit strikeouts and no walks.
It was up to the Phillies offense, then, to squeeze past the San Diego pitching staff. A sequence of chipping began in the fourth, when the Padres were up 3-0, courtesy of a brief rally in the third. Odubel Herrera had an RBi single in the fourth; Peter Bourjos hit an RBI double in the fifth; and then in the sixth, there was the... other thing.
On what figures to be Ryan Howard's final home opener in Philly a historic moment: Pete Mackanin PHs Darin Ruf for him w bases loaded in 6th— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 11, 2016
Darin Ruf+Cameron Rupp: 5-23 2B 1 BB 9 K— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) April 11, 2016
Phillies Starting Pitchers: 4-15 2B 0 BB 9 K
AND, ONCE AGAIN, THE INFIELD FLY RULE WAS IN EFFECT.
The difference between this and Cesar Hernandez's brain fart the other night was that Hernandez's was actually an infield fly - for some reason, feeling aggressively ornery, the umpires applied the same rule to a fly ball in left field. The ruling could not have come at a worse time, as the Phillies were down 3-2, the bases were loaded with no outs, and Pete Mackanin had just told Ryan Howard to sit down so Darin Ruf could get a shot at some heroism. Whatever happened, it was going to be the thing everyone remembered about this game.
So, naturally, Ruf sent the first pitch straight into the stratosphere, which, naturally, caused indecipherable chaos on the base paths. Ruf was out, because of the
outinfield fly rule, and Odubel Herrera was out because he was just running to third base as if we weren't having this same conversation about a play that directly involved him two nights ago.
That left one runner on with two outs, and though a run had come in to tie the game, Mackanin emerged from the dugout to find out, you know, what? The umpires decided everything was cool and then Cameron Rupp struck out.
The top of the seventh saw the remainder of the trouble. Ruf's fantastic day continued as his foot came off the bag following a sick Maikel Franco defensive stop at third. The play was further scrutinized by the Padres challenging the initial call of safe and having it reversed, allowing everyone a keen look at just how not on the bag Ruf had been. What became an infield single pushed Derek Norris to third base. Moments later when Alexei Amarista bunted, Norris raced home as Nola fielded the ball, and Norris barely made himself a less viable out option than Amarista running to first.
Despite having the 1-6 hitters due up to face the Padres in the eighth and ninth innings, the Phillies summoned no further offense. The bottom of the ninth started with a Maikel Franco single, but Citizens Bank park began emptying when - guess who - Ruf grounded into a double play in the next at-bat, putting the Phillies a Cameron Rupp pop-out away from the loss.
Then, they lost. Happy home opener, everyone. The Phillies have lost 11 of their last 14 home openers - and six consecutive ones