Perhaps somewhere, the hints we see of star power in the Phillies’ young players have blossomed into full-blown, major league baseball talent. Perhaps that place is called “2018.” Perhaps it’s a few years later. Perhaps it’s sideways from here, in a completely other time and place, and the Phillies are winning all of these games we’ve seen them lose, while a massive ball of flaming space debris to be streaks toward the stadium.
Freddy Galvis started the day with a hard-hit double. Aaron Altherr plucked a souvenir away from a fan by taking a guard rail to the ribs. Andrew Knapp drew three walks. In fact, the Phillies had runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings (and got into the Pittsburgh bullpen early), but still managed to get shut out.
Why? Because despite being on base all day, Knapp couldn’t get knocked in, and also was one of Jameson Taillon’s nine strikeouts in five innings (a career high for the Pirates starter). Altherr grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the seventh. And Galvis - who had been hitting .458 vs. LHP since June 17 - took a close pitch to end the game vs. a lefty with yet another scoring threat in place. In the end, they left 11 runners on and went 0-for-10 in getting them close enough to score - but not scoring them.
Hell, even Mark Leiter, Jr. gave you everything you could probably ask Mark Leiter, Jr. for, except a clutch hit at the plate, lasting five and a third, allowing five hits and two earned runs, walking two and striking out five. But at the end of the day, this game may be the most clear definition yet of the Phillies’ lack of a reliable big league hitter in the lineup. Somebody who can keep their head above .250-.260 and keep the line moving. But they don’t have that guy - or they do and he hasn’t figured it out - just yet. And until they do, or he does, that .163 team BA with the bases loaded is only going to get lower.
In the other dugout, the Buccos weren’t lacking a big bat. The Pirates’ first run came on a sacrifice fly double play that saw Tommy Joseph translate an askew Odubel Herrera throw from center into an out at third base as he cut it off and nailed Josh Harrison. But it was Andrew McCutchen, despite his 2017 struggles, who hammered two dingers that had no trouble getting out of the park, unlike the deep fly ball swatted by Nick Williams that almost managed to do so in the second, or the Altherr triple that missed going over the fence by a couple of finger nails in the third. McCutchen nailed a Leiter offering in the sixth, then came back for Ricardo Pinto in the eighth for a solo shot that traveled even further than the first one.
Pinto, too, had some flashes of promise, sizzling past the radar gun at just about 99 m.p.h., and actually managed to maintain his composure following the Cutch bomb, getting the last five hitters he faced. But the Phillies didn’t let him bat. Also, there was a rain delay.
This game didn’t teach us anything we didn’t already know. The Phillies are slowly pushing forward, just not in ways that allow them to, you know, win the games just yet. Hopefully somewhere, you saw some fireworks today, because you didn’t see them at Citizens Bank Park from the Phillies. But feel free to stop on by neighborhood, where the youth of Philadelphia are shrieking as they set off raucous, deeply unsupervised explosions every couple of minutes until late into the night.