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Tales of Bullpen Mystery and Imagination: Phillies 6, Cardinals 5

The Phillies defeated the Cardinals in the strangest game of the season (so far)

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure I can properly summarize the strangeness that was Monday night’s contest between the Phillies and Cardinals, but here is my best attempt:

  • Attempting to earn his first career save, Victor Arano threw a wild pitch on what would have been a game-ending strikeout, allowing the Cardinals to extend and later tie the game.
  • Trailing by a run and down to their last out, the Phillies got a game-winning hit from a player mired in a season-long slump who was only in the game because the starting right fielder may have broken his nose earlier in the game.

It’s funny to recall that early on, there was hope that we’d get a relatively angst-free game. (I really should have known better. Sunday’s near-meltdown should have proven that the Phillies don’t do angst-free.) The Cardinals had Miles Mikolas on the mound, and the Phillies wasted no time showing that they wouldn’t be intimidated by his glorious mustache.

The first two batters in the Phillies’ lineup reached base, and then Odubel Herrera brought them home with a line drive into the right field stands.

Later in the inning, Andrew Knapp singled home another run, and it looked like the rout was on.

Unfortunately, as they tend to do, the Phillies stopped scoring. They actually stopped generating any sort of offense, not getting more than one base runner aboard until the tenth inning.

For a while, it looked like that lack of secondary scoring wasn’t going to be a problem. Nick Pivetta got the start for the Phillies, and after a string of poor starts that had some critics questioning his prospects of staying in the rotation long-term, Pivetta delivered perhaps his best outing of the season.

Pivetta’s stuff was fantastic as he struck out 13 batters in his 7.1 innings. The Cardinals could only manage two runs on solo homers by Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina. Pivetta even got a little bit of help from his defense as Maikel Franco made this nifty play in the second inning:

With Pivetta near 100 pitches after seven innings, the assumption was that his night was over, but surprisingly, he went out to start the eighth. That might have been a bad call, as after recording the first out, he ran into some trouble. Greg Garcia singled, and Carpenter followed with a blast to right that looked like it might be a game-tying home run. The ball stayed in the park, but it still did some damage:

With that, Pivetta (and Williams) exited the game, and Edubray Ramos was brought in to escape the jam. Escaping situations like that hasn’t been a strength of the Phillies’ bullpen, but Ramos was up to the task. He struck out Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez to end the threat.

The Phillies still had one more inning to get through, and fans were left wondering who would be summoned from Gabe Kapler’s Bullpen of Mystery and Imagination. (h/t to Wet_Luzinski) When the bullpen doors opened, it was sporadically used right hander Victor Arano who entered the game.

Arano allowed two hits, but thanks to two strikeouts, it appeared as if he was going to escape with the save. He got ahead of Yairo Munoz 1-2, and then threw a nasty slider that had Munoz way out in front. Strike three, and Phillies fans went home happy!

Just kidding! Andrew Knapp was unable to block that third strike. One run scored, and Munoz was standing safe on first base. Despite Arano’s three strikeouts in the inning, for some unknown reason Gabe Kapler chose to relieve him with Adam Morgan. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Morgan allowed a game-tying single to Kolten Wong.

In the tenth inning, the Phillies were forced to turn to Jake Thompson, and Tommy Pham greeted his minor-league quality arsenal with a go-ahead home run.

I assumed the Phillies were dead men walking at this point, but the Cardinals were apparently unwilling to accept a gift win. In a move that some analysts will question, they used closer Bud Norris with the game tied in the ninth, leaving it up to middle reliever Matt Bowman to finish it off. Rhys Hoskins greeted Bowman with a single, and advanced to second base on a groundout by Herrera.

The Cardinals made another questionable decision when they chose to put the potential winning run on base by intentionally walking Carlos Santana. After Jesmuel Valentin struck out, it looked like that gamble might pay off. All that stood between them and victory was Aaron Altherr who had entered the game when Williams was injured.

Fortunately for the Phillies, the Cardinals had one more questionable decision left to make. Altherr hit a sinking line drive in the direction of left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna could have played it on a hop and conceded the tying run. Instead, he attempted a game-ending diving catch. He failed, and was left to watch helplessly as Santana crossed the plate with the winning run.

With that, the Phillies had turned an encouraging win into a crushing loss into a bizarrely thrilling win. Perhaps the Phillies can give their fans a nice, calm, angst-free win tomorrow night, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it.