If you are like me, you were excited for this game. The reasons are plentiful. The Phillies are no longer playing the Nationals nor the Mets. They are no longer facing a gauntlet of aces. We no longer have to constantly face the objects of our envy and be reminded daily that they have what we want and can’t have for at least another year. But more positively, we have the opportunity to see what these young hitters can do against more reasonable opposition. We have the opportunity to see if their run differential, their ability to play close games consistently even against tough competition, will translate into wins against weaker competition. Tonight was exciting because we start learning something new about a potentially burgeoning ball club.
To be sure, the Phillies didn’t blow us away. They got out to an early lead by knocking Bartolo Colon’s bloated sinker around the park, 3-0 after three innings. But in those innings they left runners on base, which would become a pattern for the rest of the game. They just missed homers and struck out with runners on third with less than two outs.
And then the rain came for the first time. Rain, a traditional post-diluvial blessing, proved a curse for Phillies pitchers. As soon as the skies opened and unleashed aquatic columns on the minuscule players below, Jeremy Hellickson lost his perfect game to an Ender Inciarte full sail fly ball into the left-field corner. An Adonis Garcia single brought him to the plate immediately.
The rains let up presently, but the Phillies could not extend their lead against Colon. Hellickson, who had begun the game inducing weak fly balls, mixed in some strike outs to cruise into his third at-bat against Freddie Freeman. Hellickson had handled Freeman well in their first two confrontations, keeping him off balance enough to produce easy fly balls. But in this at bat, Freeman leveled his golf swing on a change-up too much over the plate, sending the ball over the tall wall in right. Through 6, the Phillies held a one-run lead despite Hellickson mostly cruising and the Phillies hitters exploring the fair grounds in CBP.
The Phillies, thankfully, were not done scoring. Cesar Hernandez, after a couple of tough games, bounced back with a three hit night, the most important a long double to the wall just right of center, leading off the bottom of the 7th. Aaron Altherr, who had another good night, singled, moving Hernandez to third. Odubel Herrera struck out, triggering my heart burn for the evening (I assure you it wasn’t the alcohol). Then Maikel Franco brought his at-bat to the brink of a K before chopping a short hopper between the mound and third, which allowed Cesar to score and give the Phillies some cushion.
Not much happened before the ninth. Well, there was this:
my love is so strong. heart beating out of my chest. pic.twitter.com/ulpX41UrpO— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) April 22, 2017
Then the rains fell again. And this time they portended a homer. No sooner did Hector Neris enter to close out the game than the rain inspired Adonis Garcia to keep a hooking fly ball just fair down the left-field line. So, this game would have to be interesting.
But before it would be interesting, it would first be boring. The rain was a bit more insistent in the 9th than the 4th, prompting the grounds crew to cover the field while the storm sauntered past the greater Philadelphia area. When the game resumed, Neris briefly regained his lights-out form. He retired Freeman and Matt Kemp on fly balls and did not seem too taxed doing so. Of course, those two outs came thrice as fast as the last. Neris allowed consecutive singles to Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips, bringing Tyler Flowers to the plate with the tying run in scoring position.
This at-bat lingered. Neris didn’t want to let Flowers have a pitch to hit and Flowers wanted to spoil every tough pitch Neris threw. The count ran full, stayed full for what seemed like the time it took Hellickson to pitch the first three innings. Then, mercifully, Neris threw his best splitter of the night, at which Flowers could but wave.
It’s always good to beat the Braves. But let’s soundly smash them tomorrow, okay?