A distant planet, known mostly for its kangaroo rat swarms and frequent electrocutions. It is not a place to which the Phillies travel often, and certainly not to engage the local Rangers, but baseball has dictated that such encounters are now a necessary part of the sport. It was under these circumstances that the Phillies found themselves battling a worked-up Yu Darvish in Arlington on Tuesday night, and doing so with a resounding lack of success.
Darvish toyed with the baby Phils for the first five innings, using his breaking pitch to flummox them the first time through the lineup and only using off speed weapons slightly less the second time through. The Phillies didn’t seem capable of breaking the pattern until a Brock Stassi pop-up caused some drama between Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus and outfielder Delino DeShields that ended with the ball in and out of a glove. Stassi made it into scoring position while Darvish contained a silent, still-faced rage stroke. It continued through Cesar Hernandez’s at-bat, resulting in a walk, which eventually led the way for Aaron Altherr to stride to the plate as the tying run (We’ll get to that in a moment). First pitch swinging with rage in his heart, Altherr whacked a hard fly ball to right that landed safely in the fielder’s glove.
Yes, yes - the tying run. In the sixth when all this was occurring, the Phillies were down 3-0, though Jerad Eickhoff had been doing his best to keep that pitch count at less ludicrous levels. He banged through the first two hitters of the night, with the error-twins DeShields and Andrus both going down swinging, only for Nomar Mazara to nail a solo shot and open the scoring early. Eickhoff worked around some Texas nibbling on the base paths throughout his appearance, but the rest of the Phillies did little to aid him: the offense racked up 1-2-3 innings and Cameron Rupp uncorked a real jackass of a throw in the fourth to put runners in scoring position, one of which would come around to capitalize on said positioning. Cole Hamels watched from the dugout while his old team, now down 2-0, got hammered by a Jonathan Lucroy home run in the fifth, who had entered the evening hitting .362/.418/.562 with four home runs against the Phillies in his career and left the ballpark hitting an even more pornographic number.
Eickhoff departed after six innings, allowing three runs - two earned - seven hits, eight strikeouts, and two walks. It should have been enough to win.
Darvish sprung a few more leaks in the seventh, and the Phillies crawled through when they could: A Tommy Joseph single. Michael Saunders beat out a double-play ball. Maikel Franco worked a walk. Native Texan Cameron Rupp let the Arlington contingent of the Ruppie’s Puppies fan club down with a pop-up on a slider that didn’t slide and probably could have been sent a lot further. Down to the inning’s last strike, Freddy Galvis stayed cool and sent a single up the middle, plating Saunders before Darvish could escape unscathed.
Mark Leiter, Jr. protected the 3-1 margin for an inning before allowing Mike Napoli to extend it in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run blast that gave the game its final 5-1 score. Phillies pitchers have allowed at least two home runs in their last eight games. It is... not a good way to win ball games, especially when the Phillies’ own home runs fail to get over the fence. Joseph got a hold of one in the ninth that Gregg Murphy said was "gone" but in a weird... late... drop of some kind was actually a... catch? Anyways, he was out. So was Maikel Franco, on another long fly ball, and the Rangers locked up their seventh straight win.
And so, the sun set on Texas, a kangaroo rat swarm boinging past the field as the lights shut off one by one. A few of the Phillies have had some luck against tomorrow's Rangers starter Andrew Cashner, but the trick will be convincing opposing batters to keep the ball in the yard.
Negotiations are ongoing.