Going into September, on the cusp of roster expansion, everybody’s got something to prove. Maikel Franco needs to prove he belongs in the Phillies infield. Cameron Rupp needs to prove he will belong at wherever somewhere for which he is destined. Rhys Hoskins needs to prove to a gathering collective of scientists that he did not arrive on earth days ago inside of an asteroid that was struck toward our world from some distant universe.
And Ben Lively needs to prove that the aggressiveness he shows toward hitters can translate into an effective start. Last night, he managed to do that - and knock in most of the Phillies’ runs - against a team still trying to flop into a Wild Card spot.
Lively’s six-inning appearance saw him walk one and strike out five, largely by submitting to his catcher’s guidance. Rupp has faced the Marlins a few more times than his 25-year-old pitcher, and was able to take him through the Miami order without much incident over six frames, including an 0-for-5 night from Giancarlo Stanton with 2 SO. Lively and Rupp escaped a bases-loaded, no-out kerfuffle in the second inning, after a single-HBP-single sequence was followed by a fly out-ground out-ground out sequence that only scored one run.
The Phillies would tie (gasp) and eventually take (GASP) the lead in the fourth, thanks to a Pedro Florimon single with two men on. Ben Lively came to the plate and took Marlins starter Odrisamer Despaigne’s slider off the hanger and slapped it up the middle, scoring two runs and making it 3-1. Rupp, who was on second at this point, was subsequently picked off by J.T. Realmuto , an unfortunate moment in what could have been a big rally if he had managed to get under the tag, or if another team who was good at scoring more than three runs had switched places with the Phillies.
Christian Yelich’s RBI double in the fifth made it a 3-2 game, and the Phillies walked the razor’s edge for the rest of the contest in Miami, including a flash of luck after Luis Garcia took over in the eighth. Miami pinch hitter Tomas Telis hit a tapper to the third base side of the mound with Derek Dietrich on first, but was called out for interference because he ran on the infield grass. Which was great, because Garcia had thrown the ball away and Dietrich had scrammed home to tie the game; thanks to the call, he had to return from the dugout, and Garcia managed to escape the inning without a run being scored.
Hector Neris’ appearance in the ninth should probably not go on his resume. The Phillies closer entered the game and allowed the first two hitters to reach, including one via hitting him with the baseball. Then came Stanton to the plate to do what felt like the inevitable, but he only flew out to center. Yelich’s bash that followed seemed even more hazardous, but Hyun Soo Kim covered 38 feet and tracked it down for the second out. At this point, with loud circus music pounding in his head, Neris walked Marcell Ozuna, presumably to get to J.T. Realmuto and exact revenge on the Marlins backstop for making a fool of his own catcher innings before. Neris slammed the door by striking out Realmuto and giving the Phillies a win in the series opener.
Oh, and Rhys Hoskins’ hitting streak reached 13 games. Your historical Rhys Hoskins Fact attached to that:
Rhys Hoskins is the 1st Phillies player since Chuck Klein in 1928 to have a 13-game hitting streak in the first month of his career.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) September 1, 2017
Then, with so much left to prove, some time after midnight, Justin Verlander was and then wasn’t and then was and then wasn’t and then was traded to the Astros. And September began.