As most of you know, I am not a fan of pitchers hitting. In fact, I hate it.
I hate watching pitchers hit, mostly because most can’t do it well enough to even be remotely passable. In fact, many pitchers hate it. And yet, we still make pitchers, who have hit a combined .117/.151/.161 this season, do it because of strategy and history and other reasons that don’t measure up for me.
And yet, I understand there are moments when pitchers do things at the plate that are surprising and they give everyone a lift. While I don’t think it’s worth the sacrifice of automatic outs on a regular basis, those rare moments when pitchers do something at the plate of note are fun.
Which brings us to Friday’s series opener against the Colorado Rockies.
Cole Irvin, making his second start of the season, wasn’t as phenomenal on the mound as he was in his big league debut in Kansas City, but he was OK. He went six innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts against a good-hitting Rockies lineup. But while Irvin picked up the win in part because of his exploits on the mound, it was his very first big league plate appearance, in the bottom of the third, that transformed the entire series and, perhaps, the Phils’ season.
Irvin drew a 10-pitch walk from Rockies starter John Gray in which he fouled off four pitches with two strikes and took a number of borderline pitches for balls (he probably should have been called out on one of those if we’re being honest) to work base on balls. It was reminiscent of Brett Myers’ incredible at-bat against C.C. Sabathia in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS.
His at-bat seemed to energize the crowd and the team, both of whom had fallen into a coma coming off the heels of three straight non-competitive losses to the Milwaukee Brewers. When Andrew McCutchen came up next, the Phillies, down 2-0, were suddenly back in the game.
Step 1: Pitcher Cole Irvin works a 2-out, 10-pitch walk in his first MLB plate appearance.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 18, 2019
Step 2: Andrew McCutchen blasts a 2-R HR to left.
That's how you tie a game, folks. pic.twitter.com/RQYSnyDdFQ
The Phillies would go on to win Friday’s series opener 5-4, and followed it up with close wins on Saturday and Sunday.
Did Bryce Harper’s sudden hot streak help? Absolutely. Did J.T. Realmuto’s pinch hit dinger on Sunday have something to do with the sweep? You bet. And McCutchen’s emergence from his funk and Aaron Nola’s 12-strikeout performance on Saturday also went a long way.
But keep in mind, the Phillies were losing 2-0 after the Phils’ defense essentially played their worst half-inning of the season in the second inning, when Cesar Hernandez, Irvin himself, and Rhys Hoskins all gave the Rockies about seven outs thanks to a number of mental errors that were all-too in keeping with the theme of the Milwaukee series.
Irvin’s walk seemed to snap the Phillies out of whatever funk they were in and helped springboard the team into a crucial series sweep against a Rockies team that entered Friday’s play with a 17-10 record in their previous 27 games.
This doesn’t mean I LIKE pitchers hitting. But for one day at least, a pitcher served a useful purpose at the plate. On Episode 287 of “Hittin’ Season,” I discussed Irvin’ at-bat as well as Harper’s slump-busting weekend, contributions from the bullpen and a full preview of the Phils’ upcoming series against the Cubs in Chicago.