APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
-T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
We might also mix a number of things here: two subpar baseball teams whacking each other around like the blue and red Rock-’Em-Sock-’Em robots they are, some truly outstanding defense, good starting pitching, and baserunning that would leave you scratching your head, at best. Oh! And there was some lousy defense too, and short benches and bullpens that made this well, one of them there total team victories.
The Phillies are now 8-9, and have won three in a row for the first time since August 13 last year. Dwell on it a bit and you realize that, even though the Phillies played a little punch-drunk at times last night and tonight, all the ingredients are there. They’re becoming far more resilient. And sure, it was the Braves, but if they were having Pyrrhic 1-run losses to the Mets and Nationals, they’re having 1-run wins over the Braves that leave you feeling as though there’s so much more the team is capable of, especially when you realize the bench was short, and their best two relievers, Juaquin Benoit and Hector Neris, were unavailable.
The game began as a crisp pitchers’ duel, as the Braves’ Jaime Garcia and the Phillies Jerad Eickhoff faced off for a scoreless game through three. Atlanta took an early 1-0 lead as Brandon Phillips doubled home Freddy Freeman, who had led off the inning with a full-count walk.
It was the only run Eickhoff would give up, and he would wind up pitching “only” five innings, walking two and striking out seven, surrendering just two hits in five innings. Please do not be bored noticing how good this young man is at pitching baseballs. It was not his best pitched game, and in fact was his shortest outing but even so, this video is now archived under “gives your team a chance to win every night,” which is comprised of, well, Jerad Eickhoff starts.
The most interesting thing that happened offensively for the Phillies early on was this. Set your eyeballs to scorch:
With a short bench, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin let Eickhoff hit against Garcia with two outs in the fifth - a curious move given that Eickhoff had finished his pitching night after 98 pitches (58 for strikes).
But by doing so, Hernandez was able to lead off the sixth, and he promptly singled through the left side. The resurgent Aaron Altherr then sent a smash double to left field that bounced just in front of the wall, moving Hernandez to third.
Odubel Herrera then singled right up the middle to tie the game at 1, but a series of baserunning errors following that single ran them out of what could have been more. Maikel Franco hit a sharp grounder to the left side that glanced off shortstop Dansby Swanson’s glove, and then to third baseman Garcia, who then threw to second for the force on Herrera as Altherr scored the go-ahead run.
On TV, Ben Davis rightly pointed out that Herrera did not get a good secondary lead and that, in turn, led to the fielder’s choice at second. No sooner than he was done with his rant than Tommy Joseph struck out, and Franco, who presumably lost track of outs, took off for second and was caught in a rundown. Folks: Behold the joys of a young, exuberant team.
Bitch all you want about the defense, but the baserunning oh I give up. https://t.co/ERymDPebOg— Wet Luzinski (@Wet_Luzinski) April 23, 2017
Odubel Herrera’s fantastic catch off Dansby Swanson in the seventh is a thing that you must see, a la Akira Kurasawa’s Rashomon-style, in multiple Tweet formats.
In the seventh, the baserunning miscues continued after Galvis’ 1-out double to left. Galvis attempted to steal third and was thrown out on a perfect throw from Braves catcher Tyler Flowers. This of course was followed by a walk to Cameron Rupp, and then a double by pinch-hitter Daniel Nava. Then Hernandez struck out. /sad trombone; /so Phillies
But the defense stayed strong through the 8th, with outstanding plays by Freddy Galvis on an Ender Inciarte ground ball, and then Aaron Altherr made a diving catch on a Freddy Freeman drive to left field. So remember that there was excellent defense in this game. There really was. Because - hoo boy! — it was about to get, uh, not so good.
Before we get to that, remember the bullpen was short? It was. As a consequence, Edubray Ramos came on for the ninth to attempt his first career save with a 2-1 lead. He struck out Matt Kemp for the first out, then Nick Markakis for the second. And with just one out to go - one strike to go - to get that first save.....
Brandon Phillips then homered to left with two outs to tie the game. Because of course he did. We’re all so very tired of you, Mr. Phillips. Please go away. /sad trombone; /so Phillies Thankfully, no other Braves scored, but if you think this seems to happen a lot to the Phillies, you’re right!
16th HR allowed by Phils bullpen in 58.2 IP. Ouch,— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) April 23, 2017
In the bottom of the ninth, Tommy Joseph led off with a strikeout, and walked back to the dugout to some boos. And they were about to get louder, because neither Saunders nor Freddy Galvis were able to walk it off, so it was onto extra innings, with Jeanmar Gomez on the mound. The jungle drums! are beating! Beaaattinnng! This is what’s counting as a vote of confidence in Joseph these days:
In the 10th, Dansby Swanson singled to left to lead off. Emilio Bonifacio then bunted him to second, and on the play Tommy Joseph threw the play to nobody covering third base, allowing Swanson to take third with one out. Gomez then struck Inciarte out. Words don’t do it justice. Behold:
how to make up for your terrible at bat 101 pic.twitter.com/0MkAs2MRuC— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) April 23, 2017
Maybe he misheard a command; but Swanson wasn’t really advancing past second. But nevertheless: If you’re keeping score on Joseph: that’s two strikeouts, a missed foul pop on a ball that landed just beyond the railing, and a throwing error. Let’s credit him for one walk, but beyond the .200/.250./.291 he’s trotting out there, it’s getting harder to ignore that
Anyway, we were left with Swanson at third and two outs. Garcia then grounded to third, and Franco, trying to rush the throw, threw it away, and Swanson scored to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. After the intentional walk to Freeman, Gomez was able to induce another grounder to third, this one fielded cleanly.
On to the bottom of 10th! Rupp lead off with a strikeout against Braves reliever Jim Johnson, but then Brock Stassi (!) singled. Hernandez then hit a shot back to the mound that caromed off Johnson’s glove and out to Phillips, who was unable to barehand it to get the force on Stassi. Altherr then sent a scorching grounder to Swanson, whose attempt to get it out of his glove to get Hernandez resembled so much water that you might squirt into the air out of your mouth. With the bases loaded, Herrera struck out, leaving it for Franco. Franco smashed an outside pitch (h/t to @thegoodphight here in response to an excoriation of the broadcast team for an earlier critique of Franco’s batting) off the right field wall to win the game.
Contrary to what the broadcast crew might have you think, Franco has been doing just fine with outside pitches so far pic.twitter.com/XTVkpcNZPo— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) April 23, 2017
Phanatic’s birthday bash tomorrow as the Phillies climb ! I got him a new popcorn machine. And some deodorant. This is his birthday card. It’s all of our birthday cards. Look who the Phillies overtook in the standings tonight!