The Phillies are a young, rising team whose window to compete is unlocked if not yet open more than a smidge, too little even to let the rain dampen the floor. The Tigers, by contrast, are an old pine frame, white paint chipping, gnawed and shrunk from weather and use, slowly inching closed whenever Al Avila isn't shoving it back open. Tonight the veteran stars led the Tigers to another victory in which the Phillies were never out of it but were also never in it. They are in so many ways a team ajar. That feeling that the Phillies are out of a 3-0 game in the 7th or perhaps a 1-0 in the 3rd and that feeling that the Phillies won't be in a playoff race even as they are in a wild card position in May, they are the same feeling: ajarition.
Jeremy Hellickson pitched for the Phillies and fared very well against a brutal lineup on a hot streak. He surrendered a run in the first on a long Miguel Cabrera double off the wall in LCF with one out. At the time the double made Cabrera 7 for his previous 7 and possibly worth intentionally walking with the bases loaded. But Hellickson settled down, got out of that inning without any further damage, and even got revenge on Cabrera in his next AB:
when you've already driven in eleventy runs in 2 game so you can stay optimistic pic.twitter.com/oxcO9zs9jP— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 25, 2016
Hellickson then cruised into the sixth inning when once again the middle of the Tigers order gave him trouble. Just like the first inning, it started with a Cameron Maybin single. But Maikel Franco exacerbated the situation by trying to take a hard-hopping J.D. Martinez grounder to his right on his side instead of getting behind it. Franco waved over the in-between hop and put runners on second and third with nobody out for Miguel Cabrera. The inning could have gone much worse for Hellickson, but he induced a groundout from Cabrera that drove home Maybin. After that a Victor Martinez single delivered the final Tiger run of the game and Hellickson ended up with a solid line: a K per inning, just one walk, and no homers.
For their part, the Phillies were dominated by Justin Verlander, who at one point retired 10 in a row and went from the 2nd to the 7th without giving up a hit. That the Phillies scored a run can only be attributed to the fact that Verlander threw too many pitches to finish the game. Nevertheless, there were some positives. Odubel Herrera looked overmatched by Verlander, striking out three times, but still managed to walk once, fighting back from an 0-2 count. Maikel Franco still looked out of sorts at the plate but, despite that, cued a single through the left side of the infield on a low-and-away pitch few hitters would be able to reach let alone hit hard enough to reach the outfield grass. But the best performance of the night, besides Hellickson, came from Tommy Joseph, who hit 4 balls hard. Now, he only got 1 hit to show for it, but that has more to do with luck than process. If he keeps squaring up both fastballs and breaking balls like that, he'll have a fun time this season.
The Phillies face the Tigers one more time tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope Aaron Nola can salvage one win from this series.