In a make-up of a game originally scheduled for nearly 4 months ago [gazes off into the distance wistfully, remembering the promise of April], the Phillies tried their best to prevent the Marlins from climbing back to .500 for the first time since their 20th game of the season. Unfortunately, the Phillies are still the Phillies. Their cobbled together rotation hardly matches up well against a Marlins lineup featuring several high-end offensive talents.
The Phillies spent most of this game digging out of a deep, early hole. Before Nick Pivetta could record a fifth out, the Marlins led 6-0 thanks mostly to two homers. Although Pivetta only walked one batter, he struggled to command his fastball. Even though he threw it in the strike zone well enough, he didn’t seem to know where it was going. Alfaro had to chase Pivetta’s offerings up and down, left and right. Eventually, Pivetta grooved some pitches and paid the price.
To be fair to Pivetta, he began the game a bit unlucky. Both Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton opened the second leg of the doubleheader by reaching base on weak contact. Gordon flared a humpback liner over Freddy Galvis and Stanton skyed a ball into the Bermuda Triangle in shallow rightfield, left behind by the Phillies infield overshift and deep outfield. Then Christian Yelich bounced a slow hopper to Pedro Florimon at second and seemed to give Pivetta a way out of the jam. Florimon had Stanton trapped between himself and firstbase. He properly chased Stanton back and turned him toward the bag, but then he rushed the throw, pulled Tommy Joseph off the bag, and the Phillies could only retire Stanton. In the meantime, Gordon scored to make the game 1-0. Marcel Ozuna followed with a homer crushed over the awkward corner in left-centerfield to make the score 3-0 before the Phillies had even swung a bat. Suddenly, Pivetta couldn’t salvage a bad luck inning and he unraveled. He allowed two more baserunners before retiring the side on over 40 pitches.
He picked up in the second where he left off in the first. Again the first two batters reached. Pivetta then struck out Stanton, albeit on a hanging slider that Stanton swung through. But Pivetta couldn’t get away with the mistakes any longer. He left a fastball belt high and in the middle of the plate to Christian Yelich, who blasted it into the Phillies bullpen. That ended Pivetta’s night and I for one felt badly for him, not because he didn’t deserve his fate but because he just didn’t look competitive at the Major League level tonight.
So, that’s how the Phillies found themselves seemingly out of the game from the outset. But tonight in Philly MLB was the NBA with dingers: everyone makes a run. For the Phillies that run started with an excellent slew of innings from the middle relievers. Edubray Ramos, a hard throwing short reliever, provided three innings of shut-out, 5 K, 1 BB dominance. He was followed by Yacksel Rios, making his MLB debut. Rios looked solid, recording 5 outs (two on Ks). His fastball sat in the mid-90s and he kept the Marlins off-balance well enough. I can’t say he looks like a central piece for the future bullpen but he had a debut to be proud of. Rios took the Phillies through the 6th and gave way to Jesen Therrien, who also pitched in the first game. Therrien retired two batters to start the 7th and turned the inning over to Adam Morgan. Morgan, however, couldn’t keep the blanks going. He surrendered three straight singles before getting the last out. But that one run would be the only run the bullpen allowed in 7 and 2/3rds innings. That’s excellent work.
Meanwhile, the Phillies hitters tried to pound their way back into the game. The comeback began in the 4th. Nick Williams led off the inning with a smash out to centerfield, clearing the wall and clanging off a piece of metal mesh whose purpose I can’t identify in my every more foggy memory.
Later in the same inning with one runner on, Andres Blanco put forward one of the best at bats of the season. José Ureña worked ahead of Blanco, but Blanco refused to go down, fouling off pitch after pitch and once letting his bat fly out of his hands and onto the roof of the dugout. That bat, though, was special. With it Blanco had ripped a late and meaningless homerun in the first game. So, Blanco made sure that the bat boy got him that bat back. After working the count back full, Blanco ended the at bat on the 14th pitch by rocketing the ball off his own brightly projected face hanging from the rightfield facade. That made the game 6-3 and, surprisingly, the Phillies no longer seemed buried.
An inning later Williams nearly collected his second homer in as many at bats. With two outs and Freddy Galvis on first after a walk, Williams launched another fly ball to centerfield. This one too had the distance to surpass the wall but not by nearly as much as his first. As a result, Christian Yelich was able to run back to the wall, skirt it, and reach his glove up just enough to squeeze the ball between his thumb and palm. It was a great robbery that almost failed. The ball never reached the pocket of Yelich’s glove. He somehow squeezed his glove at just the right time to trap the ball by one hemisphere without having it jarred loose by the impact with the wall or the ground. It was flabbergasting.
One more inning on and the consequences of that catch loomed larger. Tommy Joesph inched the Phillies closer with a dinger. This one was a moon shot that landed ten rows deep in left field and came almost straight down on top of the mostly empty seats. Everyone smartly let the ball land before trying to wrangle it. With that the Phillies were within two runs but could have been tied were it not for Yelich’s catch. Nevertheless, could they extend their run and complete the comeback?
Well, no. It’s still 2017 and they are still the Phillies. As the late evening turned to night, the dingers dried up and the last third of the game passed uneventfully. Although the Phillies managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the 9th inning, it was unlikely that Pedro Florimon was going to hit the clutch homerun they needed. And so it was that the Marlins reached .500 on the back of a doubleheader sweep against the Phillies. .500, that must be nice.