In Philadelphia, the weather let us down on Jackie Robinson Day. Fortunately, the baseball was being played somewhere else.
After a gorgeous Saturday, complete with the Phillies beating the Rays 9-4 for their fifth straight win, overnight, our planet shifted off its axis, sending the weather into chaos as we transitioned from 83 degrees and sunny to some kind of frigid slop. But within the safety of a toilet-like facility in Tampa, the Phillies were beating the Rays in peace. For a time.
There’s not a lot to remember about the Rays at this point, but the top of their lineup has some recognizable faces: Denard Span’s up there. Carlos Gomez is in right field, looking like he’s still adjusting to staring up at a mess of pipes and stray cats and whatever is stuck in the closed roof of Tropicana Field. Kevin Kiermaier had two hits on Saturday and one Sunday afternoon but left after injuring his right thumb.
So, Ben Lively wasn’t facing the liveliest bunch in the AL East. Nevertheless, he stepped up with the sweep on the line to produce at exactly about the level you’d expect from a replacement No. 5 starter. He’s made three starts, logged 15.1 innings, and has accumulated a 5.87 ERA while we wait for Jerad Eickhoff to unstrain his lat. Today, two more runs joined his record in the first inning on a Denard Span home run and a triple from Mallex Smith.
Down 2-0, the Phillies kicked rocks for a few innings before the light turned on in the third. Andrew Knapp ignited a rally with a single, Pedro Florimon moved it along with a double, and Cesar Hernandez reached on a throwing error by Rays’ shortstop Daniel Robertson, allowing Knapp to score. Florimon moved to third, but the Rays actually got two outs before Rhys Hoskins was hit by a pitch (anything to pump that top-ten OBP), and Tampa was in exactly the situation no one wants to be in when they play the Phillies these days: the bases loaded for Scott Kingery.
Kingery went down in the count, gathered himself, and punched a soaring double off the center field wall. Clearing the bases, the Phillies stole a 4-2 lead, trading blows over the next two innings to make it 5-3—Lively leaked another run and Hoskins’ had one of his hard-hit balls find some grass.
It was about this time that The Trop began to shake with nature’s fury and weather robots frantically called the stadium to protect the humans inside. A tornado warning was put into effect for the Tampa area, and the roof leaked on Rays catcher Jesus Sucre.
Nevertheless! As palm trees were uprooted and tossed into the sea outside, the Phillies continued their sweep. Maikel Franco smashed a grounder with the bases loaded in the eighth which Matt Duffy muffed, allowing two more runs to score and Aaron Altherr, still only hitting .083 in 36 AB, crushed a three-run bomb to make it 10-3. Ben Lively departed after the fourth, replaced by Hoby Milner’s strict one-hitter diet, Yacksel Rios, who got the win, and Luis Garcia, who got the hold. Adam Morgan was summoned from the bullpen to walk in a run, and Edubray Ramos finished the last two innings in a game where the pitching management took a back seat to the explosive offense.
Off to Atlanta, now, with a 9-5 record that puts the Phillies among the NL’s best.