On paper, “Clayton Kershaw faces last-place Phillies” isn’t all too interesting for anyone outside of Clayton Kershaw fans or people who like to watch grown men be humiliated in public. Nevertheless, the late September stretch run plugged onward, the Dodgers long ago clinching a playoff berth and the Phillies long ago watching that take place from very far away. However, a small, but intense, gathering of fans got to witness a Phillies team make things, surprisingly, and powerfully, a little more interesting.
This was a game that saw Aaron Altherr dropping the grand slam hammer on Clayton Kershaw, a first-inning inside-the-park home run by the wrong team, J.P. Crawford bare-handing a ground ball like he’d been playing in the hot corner for the last six months, Nick Pivetta catching a screaming comebacker with his jersey, and the 96-win Dodgers deploying security to inspect Hector Neris’ hat moments before he would surrender a lead-slimming donger to Curtis Granderson, two outs from a win.
Pivetta had the unfortunate role of “guy who must outpitch Clayton Kershaw,” and when he gave up a pair of home runs in the first inning - one an inside-the-parker that made use of Citizens Bank Park’s infamous carom and one that was just Justin Turner being annoying - it didn’t seem to bode well. Spotting a first place team two runs on their way to their fifth straight division flag did not put the Dodgers right where the Phillies wanted them. But Pivetta dug into that reservoir of strikeouts he occasionally has access to, having struck out 10 Cardinals on June 21 and 11 Padres on August 16. He hung eight K’s on the Dodgers, and it was enough to limit them to those two runs for six innings.
With Pivetta unexpectedly effective against a powerful lineup dotted with wily vets and hyper-productive younglings, all the Phillies had to do was beat the best pitcher in the sport. The last time Kershaw had faced them back in July 2015, he threw a CGSO, and though this was a different team then, Kershaw has remained a flummoxer of young hitters, with little reason to believe that the youthful bats in the Phillies lineup would serve as any exception.
And for five innings, they didn’t. Maikel Franco almost broke through with a long, just foul home run ball that indicated his intentions for the at-bat. When he struck out swinging, he let out a pair of furious shouts while retreating to the dugout steps. Even the sixth inning’s rally seemed absurd and fragile. Odubel Herrera popped out and Nick Williams struck out in between a Ty Kelly walk and a soft Freddy Galvis pop-up that somehow became a single, and the Phillies fell ass backwards into a two-out, two-on situation. Kershaw bore down, but he was facing the historic Rhys Hoskins, who instead of bursting the tension with a fit of moonshotting, drew a walk and let the inning turn into a bases-loaded, two out slow burn. Aaron Altherr followed and made a little history of his own in the second deck.
Aaron Altherr's grand slam was the first Clayton Kershaw has allowed in his Major League career.— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) September 19, 2017
Hector Neris got the save after the Dodgers had it confirmed that he didn’t have any snacks in his hat.
With Kershaw defeated, the Dodgers on the run, and Dave Roberts grumbling in a corner about Neris’ rosin-caked cap, the Phillies go again tomorrow night. Who knows which players will hit a grand slam off...[sound of papers rustling] Yu Darvish?! How is this team legal.