The Phillies entered today hoping to salvage a game against the Tigers. The Tigers pose a special challenge for the Phillies because their offense is good enough to score 4 runs against a good pitcher pitching well, while the Phillies offense isn't likely to score 4 runs against a bad pitcher. In the first two games those dynamics held true. The Tigers wore down good pitching by the Phillies and the Phillies offense couldn't muster much, even against a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey.
Through the first half of the game, the Phillies seemed to reverse these trends. Aaron Nola struck out the side in the first, looking untouchable in the process. He located his fastball down and away and on hitters hands, while slinging a curve that seemed to pause in mid-air before dodging Tiger flails. In the meantime, the Phillies offense put men on base consistently, leading to two runs in the 2nd and three in the 4th. At baseball halftime, they held a 5-1 lead.
Five runs for the Phillies counts as a barrage of offense. And it came mostly from a surprising place: the bottom of the order. In the second, Ryan Howard led off with a single, and after a groundout and two singles, he was finally forced to score in spite of himself. Then, with two outs and Blanco on third and Bourjos on first, the Phillies stole a second run on an exciting little-league play: the double delayed steal of home. Bourjos broke for second, McCann fired the ball high to second (he might have had Bourjos with a good throw), and Blanco came home without a return throw.
Later, in the top of the 4th, Andres Blanco and Tyler Goeddel reached base in front of Odubel Herrera, who then did this:
Herrera's home run gave the Phillies their 5-1 lead and Nola cruised through the 4th inning, making it seem as if the Phillies would have their easy game. But unease immediately befell us as the second half of the game opened. In the bottom of the 5th, Nola allowed the bottom of the Tigers order to reach, although it was not due to poor pitching. James McCann scooted a grounder through the infield and Jose Iglesias dinked a soft grounder that spun out of Blanco's glove at second base. (Blanco was not charged an error for home-scorer reasons.) These hits turned the lineup over for the top of the Tigers order. Facing Nola for the third time, they looked like they had an idea how to hit him. Maybin, J.D. Martinez, and Victor Martinez ripped run-scoring singles, closing the Phillies lead to a single run. Suddenly, the Phillies were facing another tough game, whose outcome would be in doubt to the end.
Fortunately, the Phillies offensive barrage would not end and the pitching did not have to preserve a one-run lead the rest of the way. Through the final 4 innings the Phillies added 3 runs, including a Peter Bourjos solo home run, which should put all those Bourjos hecklers to rest (haha, no, not really).
Nola pitched 6 innings with 6K/1BB and no HR, a solid outing that didn't deserve all the runs charged to him. He gave way to David Hernandez who retired the first batter he faced and then surrendered three straight hits. Mackanin quickly saw that Hernandez was not working, went to Nerris, who retired 5 Tigers out of the 6 he faced and squelched any further rallies. Jeanmar Gomez then worked a quiet 9th inning against the top of the order, which was a delightful surprise, given his lack of strike-out stuff.
So, the Phillies get a win in Detroit and played close games in each. That's not a great start to this 3-week gauntlet, but it isn't bad either.
- Cameron Maybin has a terrible arm. Freddy Galvis scored on a sac fly to Maybin who caught the ball 20 yards from second on the run. He threw inaccurately to home but even an accurate throw would have been close.
- Maikel Franco left the game after the top of the 7th because he twisted his ankle sliding into second base on the sac fly that scored Galvis. Hopefully, it's nothing lasting. I'm glad the Phillies are being cautious though.
- In a couple instances, Tigers hitters were miffed that home plate ump Brian Gorman didn't grant them time when the pitcher was ready to pitch. Good for you, Brian Gorman.