We can talk about how good Aaron Nola was tonight. Six innings of two run baseball when it was clear he didn’t have his best stuff is why even when Jake Arrieta is fully ready, Nola will continue to be the ace of this staff.
We can talk about how with runners on base, the team went cold, going 0 for 7 on the game. Compare that with their season average of .284/.388/.509 in those situations, and you can see how this game was very winnable.
Instead, this game, unfortunately was decided by a mental gaffe by Odubel Herrera.
Now, that might be a little strong, since Herrera was responsible for the only run the team was able to muster against Braves starter Julio Teheran and a phalanx of relievers, taking him deep in the first inning.
A look at Odubel Herrera's homer (and bat flip) in the first inning. Hit a 3-2 slider in a seven-pitch at-bat. pic.twitter.com/vMTkLfWLPz— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 17, 2018
But it is irresponsible to ignore the fact that Herrera not sliding into second in the third inning severely hurt the team’s chances of winning. Let’s set the scene. Scott Kingery led off the inning with a fly out and was followed by Carlos Santana, who walked. In stepped Herrera, who proceeded to hit the ball to Nick Markakis’s left. Santana easily made third and Markakis threw the ball into second, where he found an unsuspecting Herrera slowing down and not sliding into the base, which led to the second out of the inning.
How not to run the bases, by Odubel Herrera. https://t.co/NedTyNLGIJ— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) April 17, 2018
The reaction was swift.
Odubel Herrera tried to stretch a single into a double. Could have had it, except he did not slide. Bad out there.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 17, 2018
What a boner by Odubel Herrera, who had a hustle double except he forgot to slide into second base.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) April 17, 2018
It snuffed out what could have been a men on second and third, one out situation, something the team has hit .333 (2 for 6) so far this year in. There really is no justification for this type of baserunning. Herrera should have slid into the base, plain and simple. The Phillies beat writers were completely justified in calling Herrera’s play what it was. Herrera himself knew he messed up, slamming his helmet several times on his way back to the dugout.
This is nothing new for Herrera, who has struggled with these types of issues throughout his career. I’m not going to link any comments from fans about Herrera here since you can probably imagine what they are like (shockingly, they were nothing like the comments when Rhys Hoskins tried to steal third with no outs a few games back). However, while I’m not excusing this play, I will accept that there will be bad plays that go along with what Herrera brings to the table. He’ll have the occasional brain fart here and there, but those types of things are acceptable when the player is hitting as well as Herrera is now. They’re not acceptable when they cost teams ballgames, which this one most likely did.
What’s interesting is what happened after. Take this for whatever it is worth:
Rhys Hoskins stopped Odubel Herrera for a lengthy chat in the outfield between innings. Interesting.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) April 17, 2018
Whatever Hoskins said, it’s nice that the team has some leaders stepping up to police themselves whenever it is needed.
As I said, these things will happen. Perhaps if someone got a hit with a runner in scoring position, we are talking about something completely different. However, they didn’t so here we are. Let’s hope that Herrera learns from it and continues being the same 3-4 WAR player he has been since debuting with this team.