Today's Labor Day matchup between the Phillies and the Marlins in Miami was watched by nobody, including me. I spent the day playing with my backhoe and bandsaw, for the most part. I did watch the game on replay on Comcast, though, if only because it is an Eickhoff start and because I want to pad my recap win stats for the year. The game was "Phillies/Marlins Playing Out the String" dreariness as both teams are sliding, though, and the Phillies have lost 6 straight coming into today.
Bottom line? I'd really rather write about my backhoe experience today as opposed to the Phillies game. I know all of you come here to read about backhoes, too: "TheGoodPhight.com: All Backhoes All the Time" right? Remember that time when the Phillies were good and Roy Oswalt was doing stuff on his bulldozer? That was cool, right? Maybe if we start writing about heavy machinery around here, the Phillies will be good again.
I'm totally willing to try, but there has to be at least a veneer of baseball stuff incorporated in this, though, otherwise people will start asking me uncomfortable questions about my devotion to baseball as opposed to
playing in the dirt doing important work with a backhoe.
Anyway, Jerad Eickhoff pitched today. He has, since the Nola injury, become my favorite Phillies pitcher since he gives them a fighting chance pretty much every outing. Today was no different, though he started out with a rough first inning.
Dee Gordon laced a ball into the gap for a triple, and he cruised into third standing up. For a couple of seconds, I was concerned that he may have been able to make it home. Miami has a cavernous ballpark, and it doesn't just seem that way since it is almost always empty -- it is actually huge, and Gordon used all of it. It ultimately made little difference that Gordon didn't drive himself home, since Hit King Ichiro Suzuki quickly brought him home with a single. Suzuki scampered to second on a wild pitch and came home for the Marlins' second run on a JT Realmuto single.
The score was 2 - 0 Marlins, and Eickhoff looked anything but good to this point. His start was somewhat like mine today on the backhoe.
Today, I wanted to fix a small ornamental pond next to my house, and it is as dry as it has been for months, so it was a perfect day. The tough part about the project was getting the backhoe across the drainage ditch between the road and the pond. I stupidly tried to drive straight across, and I got the backhoe stuck. Not in the mud, just over the ditch where my big rear wheels couldn't get enough purchase to push the rig forward. Or backward. I was fucking stuck. And the last thing I wanted to do was to have to go knock on my sister's door (or, worse, my dad's) and tell them I got the fucking backhoe stuck.
I was in a jam. Kind of like Eickhoff being down 2 - 0 early. But we both worked through it.
In the second, Eickhoff got Derek Dietrich to fly out - this out was a fun one, in that Odubel Herrera almost removed Aaron Altherr's head as Herrera cought the ball. Eickhoff then hit Xavier Scruggs on the left elbow with a ball up and in. Miguel Rojas doubled, putting runners at second and third with one out. Eickhoff's wheels were spinning and he was stuck, too.
Eickhoff's answer to his second inning jam was to strike out Marlins' pitcher Jake Esch and Dee Gordon.
My answer to getting out of my jam was to use the backhoe to unstick itself.
Backhoes are really remarkable pieces of equipment, by the way. I never really used one until a few years ago. My backhoe is really a tractor with a bucket loader on the front (which is what I mostly use) and the backhoe on the back. The backhoe part is like Madden for Playstation - the controls are just too confusing for me. I'm more of a Tecmo Super Bowl type guy.
Still, being stuck, I had a really useful tool at my disposal -- the backhoe. Hydraulic systems are incredibly powerful, and a backhoe often moves the tractor it is attached to. Backhoes have plantable "feet" that you need to use as stabilizers for just this reason. Since I was stuck I used this to my advantage. I put the tractor in neutral, I lifted the stabilizer feet about a foot or so off the ground, and I reached out the backhoe arm about halfway. Then I flipped the scoop underneath the "arm" and I did something like a one-armed backhoe "pushup" which shoved the tractor forward about 3 feet, pushing the wheels over the drainage ditch. The backhoe was basically my mechanical arm that shoved the whole deal forward and out of trouble.
The best part? Nobody saw me, so I got away with it! Hah! DON'T TELL ANYONE.
Eickhoff got away with it, too. Really, he just was not sharp early. But we both settled in.
Eickhoff cruised through the third. Three fly ball outs sandwiched around a single, and he finally had a stress free inning.
I dug out a trench for my 8" culvert, recycled/reused from a neighbor who wanted to get it out of his yard. I trenched a spot for my overflow culvert, which was a long section of ancient terra cotta sewer pipe that had been behind my shed for about 40 years, at least -- someone bought it at an auction and there it has sat since until today. Trench work is exactly what backhoes are good for. It took me three times as long as it would have for someone good, because there are axis/controls for the bucket to scoop in and out, the arm to move in and out at the "elbow", the arm to move in and out at the "shoulder" and the arm to move left or right at the shoulder. And unless you use one regularly, you forget which is which or which is what direction.
It should actually be called trial and error, error, and error.
I scooped up some broken concrete slab pieces and blocks from our fill pile to use as rip rap around the waterline of the pond. This was a bucket loader job, though I had to load the stuff by hand into and out of the bucket. It was easier to use the loader than a wheelbarrow. And funner. And it was really neat to be able to reuse the junk in the fill pile for a productive project. That's one of the core features of my redneck ideology, by the way. I may keep a lot of crap around, but I do use it. Eventually.
In the Marlins' half of the fourth, Eickhoff polished his FIP a bit, remembering to get two groundball outs and a strike out. With 61 pitches through 4, he was working much more efficiently. The final out of the inning was on a grounder to Freddy Galvis, who glided to his right, picked it, and made a strong throw to first, closing out the inning.
Then the Phillies, and Galvis, struck in the fifth. Altherr was hit by a pitch, and then Galvis *smoked* a long...fly...ball...just foul down the right field line. Esch, not scared off by that, threw an uninspired curve to Galvis, who blasted it into the second deck in right for his 16th homer of the year. Peter Bourjos followed that with a triple to the gap in left center. With nobody out, the Phillies were in bidness.
Eickhoff could not help himself, grounding to Martin Prado at third. Prado held Bourjos and threw out Eickhoff. Cesar Hernandez reached on an error (a ground ball through the five hole of Rojas), scoring Bourjos to stake the Phillies to a 3 - 2 lead. They would not relinquish that lead the rest of the way, but you knew that since you read the title of the recap. Hernandez repaid the error favor by erroring himself off the bases with a caught stealing. Herrera whiffed and the inning ended.
Galvis, by the way, has the fourth most runs saved by a shortstop (per Fangraphs). His offense (sans dingers) has been brutal, though. I often wonder how much we would like Fredo if he walked, say, 8% of the time instead of 4.4% of the time. If we could just get Jeff Goldblum to put Hernandez and Galvis into his contraption from "The Fly" to try to get the Hernandez walk rate and the Galvis power and defense. We'd probably just get this.
In the fifth, Cameron Rupp had his second passed ball which allowed leadoff pinch hitter Tomas Telis (who snaked a grounder just past Eickhoff for a single) to go to second. A fly out later, and Rupp had more excitement behind the plate with a wild pitch on a curve in the dirt that let Telis get to third. At this point, Matt Stairs gave me another reason to love him when he called Ichiro something that sounded like "Itchy Rho". Itchy Rho grounded to second for the second out, and Telis had to hold at third. Prado flied out harmlessly to center to end it, and Eickhoff was through 5 on 75 pitches.
The fifth inning was an interesting one for Eickhoff -- he gave up a BABIP single, was pressured by the passed ball and the wild pitch, but he did not panic or fold. He did what we've seen him do again and again this year -- he kept grinding, and he made pitches.
With my pond fixed, I had another project for the backhoe today. I bought a PA Game Commission squirrel box at a silent auction for a local forest management non-profit this winter (otherwise it would not have been boughten -- I would have made it). I had to put it up someplace, and I didn't want to haul around a ladder. This looks like a job for...the bucket loader.
I put the squirrel box in the loader bucket, and I drove it to the park area near my Mitchell Merry Whirl (it lives on the blood of unwary children). I parked the loader near an old Pinus Strobus to which I was going to attach the squirrel box. I extended the bucket all the way up, and turned off the loader. I climbed up to the bucket, stood in it, and nailed the box to the tree at about 13 feet. Allow me to pitch a marvelous hammer to you at this point. Estwing makes really great tools, and this hammer is no exception. It rings when you hit anything, which is kind of cool. Cooler is that it will outlast me, and it's made in the USA.
My loader's day was done, and so was Eickhoff's after the sixth. He finished with 89 pitches, 58 strikes, 4 strikeouts, no walks, 2 runs, and 6 hits. His xFIP was 3.99
In the seventh, Altherr walked and Galvis reached on an error by pitcher Austin Brice. Another error put Altherr at third and Galvis at second Bourjos slapped a single on a soft liner to short center, scoring Altherr and extending the lead to 4 - 2. Bourjos stole second and Jimmy Paredes knocked in Galvis and Bourjos with a single, putting the Phillies up 6 - 2, where the scoring ended.
Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez brought the Phillies home with clean innings in the eighth and ninth innings, giving the Phillies a much-needed win. Tomorrow's 7:10 game features Adam Morgan and Jose Urena for the Marlins.
Fangraph that looks kind of like a backhoe: