Right now, a Phillies game is merely the serene, slow-moving surface of a dramatic frenzy. Going into Saturday nigh’s game against the Marlins, the Phillies were the talk of baseball, namely because of converging narratives involving Nick Williams’ unhappiness and Gabe Kapler’s management of playing time; but don’t forget subplots like the evening’s starter, Velasquez, trying to rebound from a poor 2018 debut and the Mets starting the season 6-1.
Addressing the Willams situation with Scott Franzke pre-game, Kapler said he had a twenty minute “great conversation” with the young outfielder. Williams wasn’t in the lineup.
The good news was, entering play, the Phillies led baseball in pitches seen per at-bat with 4.41 (Cardinals were next at 4.21). That paid off in a big way, but we’ll get to that: First things first, it was a Vince Velasquez start, so yes, he winged an off-target warm-up pitch just past umpire Scott Barry’s head by accident while Mike Schmidt told a story about wearing two sets of batting gloves at once. Six of the first ten batters Velasquez faced worked full counts. He also threw two wild pitches, one of which became a Marlins run when Jorge Alfaro tried to catch Derek Dietrich racing to third while Maikel Franco waved his arms. Oh, god, Franco’s night—never mind. We’ll get to that too.
Dietrich scoring on the wild pitch happened in the first, continuing Velasquez’s streak of not throwing a scoreless inning in 2018 and setting off a generally negative vibe, especially since Velasquez needed 26 pitches to get out of the first inning.
Down 1-0 early, the Phillies loaded the bases with a walk, a single, and a single from their first three hitters. Given the state of things, batting with the bases loaded is a moment of intense scrutiny in Philadelphia. Fortunately, Rhys Hoskins was batting clean-up tonight, and he’s one of the few Phillies who has managed to avoid the crosshairs in the season’s first six games. Those fortunes continued when, in classic Hoskins fashion, he worked a walk to tie the game. Just to be safe, the Phillies scored 19 insurance runs.
Among them? Franco hit a grand slam after a patient at-bat in the first. His second home run in as many days—and his fifth straight home run at Citizens Bank Park—puts him at 5-for-8 with 10 RBI since the Phillies’ home opener (AKA the last two games). His OPS is 1.332.
Velasquez went back out there in the third, Franco having given him a 5-1 cushion and no trickery yet as Kapler held off on flashing the “chaos” signal from the dugout. Instead, the Phillies manager arranged the defense accurately, shifting Odubel Herrera to make a pair of catches that allowed for a 12-pitch inning and let Velasquez slow his quickly ascending pitch count.
Aaron Altherr followed another disciplined at-bat by Franco that resulted in a walk with his own grand slam, unlocking a new wing of the baseball statistic archives.
Fifth time Phillies have hit 2 slams in one game, 1921 (Lee Meadows/Ralph Miller, 1997 Billy McMillon/Mike Lieberthal), 2003 (Tomas Perez/Jason Michaels and 2009 (Ryan Howard/Raul Ibanez).— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) April 7, 2018
Everybody hit. Herrera and Jorge Alfaro led the way with three, Franco almost had a second home run that bounced off the top of the fence and got reviewed, Carlos Santana hit a three-run bomb (his 1.000th career hit), Hoskins had two walks and an RBi double, Scott Kingery hit one of the team’s four doubles, the Phillies scored eight runs in one inning, and Jake Thompson threw three clean innings, starting in the seventh—yes, Velasquez lasted six innings, despite 53 pitches in two innings. He even logged six strikeouts, one of which got Brian Anderson looking to end his night.
And what do you know, Nick Williams got his playing time. A lot of people have had a lot of thoughts about Williams of late, latching onto specific parts of specific comments to complain about him being a young player who wants to play. In any case, Williams slipped into left field in the sixth (and went 1-for-2) as Thompson entered and allowed one hit, no walks, and four strikeouts.
The Phillies scored 20 runs, which is one more run than their season total before tonight’s game, and in doing so commemorating the last time they shredded a team in such a fashion.
It’s April. It’s the Marlins. It was important to see this time go nuts on somebody.
Get some rest, Philly. You must be tired from all this winning. Just be up in time for Jake Arrieta’s first start as a Phillie.