Michael Saunders’ dead weight has been jettisoned, Odubel Herrera is addressing, or having addressed, his mental vacation, and the Phanatic has been deployed on road trips to aid with morale and to stalk and kill local game to provide food for the team. With only three and a half more months of Phillies baseball, the team is making some minor adjustments to keep people sane. This of course does nothing for those who now wander the wastelands, minds shattered, having watched this squad set itself on on
fire pace for 110 losses for the last twelve weeks, but there are always casualties to a rebuild.
So, even with an attempt at a turning point, the players jog out there every night hoping these next nine innings will be the ones that change everything. Playing the Mariners, that didn’t seem super-plausible, given that the Ben Gamel-led Seattlers came into Philly back in May for two games and torched the Phillies out of their own park. But Aaron Nola was once again sharp and the offense made enough happen to allow for the unthinkable.
Nola and Mariners starter James Paxton slung arrows for the first two innings, with Nola faltering in the third, allowing a two-run shot to Jean Segura. But the game hummed along, as Nola’s curve and Paxton’s whatever flummoxed their respective opponents - Nola logging six K’s through four, Paxton putting up seven.
In the fifth inning, the Phillies played the sort of slick, efficient baseball that they haven’t all season. Down 2-0, Maikel Franco led off with a double (instead of wagging his bat at every pitch with one hand), Cameron Perkins followed with an infield single (instead of striking out) that Franco read like a champ, and Cameron Rupp worked a walk (instead of never getting on base). With the bases loaded, instead of doing nothing, Ty Kelly smacked a sac fly and Daniel Nava followed with another. With the game now tied at 2-2, instead of not in the Phillies’ favor, Freddy Galvis nailed a single, but Rupp, instead of scoring from second, sort of fell down face first into home plate while Mariners catcher Mike Zunino caught the throw and waited patiently with the ball for the third out (This was not a ‘slick’ part of the inning).
With the game re-equalized, the pitchers’ duel continued. Franco wasn’t finished troublemaking; he not only made a sick defensive play to start the bottom half of the fifth that let him unholster his cannon from the hot corner to nail Mitch Haniger, but broke the tie to lead off the seventh with a Paxton offering that he deposited into Luis Garcia’s cap in the bullpen.
It was some of the most action the pen would see all night. Pete Mackanin came out for a chat with Nola in the seventh, with two runners on and two outs after Nola tied up Zunino with some up and in 90 mph trickery. Segura was headed to the plate, and Mackanin wanted to see if 112 pitches had made Nola’s arm any less accurate. They had, as Segura slapped a duster up the third base line... only for Franco to make a diving stop and catch noted cheater Segura at first. Nola escaped with seven innings under his belt, nine strikeouts, five hits, two earned runs, four walks, and a career-high 113 pitches.
And then the insurance runs came: Doubles. Singles. Walks. Sac flies that were foul balls. An Aaron Altherr home run. And then, okay, it’s late, and the ball is flying out of Mariners’ players hands. Let’s just call it.
Hector Neris held an 8-2 lead with three strikeouts. A new day is upon us. Unless the Phillies lose tomorrow. Then the old day is back.