As I’ve watched the Phillies in May (which is a neurosis listed in the DSM-V and the subject of a recent Surgeon General’s warning*), I’ve felt like what I imagine Aeneas must have felt standing on the ramparts of Troy watching, alternately, the Greeks surge toward the walls and then the Trojans push the Greeks back. From the overwhelming Greek forces he could see that any victory would be ephemeral. Yet he knew he could escape and he could hope to be victorious in another time and place. Indeed, he would become the fore-father of Rome. But in the mid-term between today and the years to come, he had little to hope for and would have to watch much of what he had come to love be torn asunder and consumed in fire.
The Phillies’ May has been like that: consciously fleeting joy and a bitterly tinged hope. For just the second time this month, the Phillies entered a game with the chance to win a series. But as Tommy Joseph drove Aaron Altherr home to walk-off last evening, I didn’t think of that the Phillies might win the series. I simply tried to enjoy the win before the Reds surge back to the mouth of the Schuylkill.
Coming into today, when Phillies pitchers reached 2 strikes in a count, they had the worst FIP and second-worst wOBA against, per Fangraphs. Much of the Phillies pitching struggles can be traced to their inability to finish at bats where they have the advantage. And this was certainly the story behind Zach Eflin and his early struggles. Eflin worked ahead to every hitter in the first inning, but he surrendered one run and stranded more thanks to an on-target-but-short throw by Andrew Knapp and a great scoop-and-tag by Freddy Galvis.
What followed from Eflin was a bombardment of dingers, capped by an 0-2 2-run homer by Adam Duvall, his second on the day, that pushed the Reds lead to 7-4 at the midpoint of the contest.
Like all those possessed of the ancient knowledge of tragedy, the Phillies fought hard against the tide of time and the Reds. Despite an early two-run deficit, the Phillies briefly took a 2-run lead in the bottom of the 2nd. Joseph and Michael Saunders reached in front of Knapp, who then slammed a high-arcing fly-ball well beyond the center-field wall and into Mark Leiter’s waiting glove.
But the Reds wouldn’t retreat to their ships. Instead, they continued to catapult balls over the outfield walls, chasing Eflin after 5 innings. And even though the Phillies lit many fuses by putting runners on the bases, they also never fired their canons by bringing those runners around to home plate. Double plays often snuffed those fuses.
The game was not a blowout. At the very least, the resurgent bullpen kept it close for 4 innings (or at least until Jeanmar Gomez’s second inning). But the contest came to a crashing halt after the last double play in the 6th. At that point, it felt as if the Phillies were just playing out the string until they could shower and hold another team meeting.
*The warning states that watching the Phillies causes progeria, as evidenced below:
It’s time to flee Troy, don’t you think?