On a day when they celebrated a power-hitting great from the past, a power-hitting sometimes-great from the present gave Phillies fans an increasingly rare opportunity to celebrate the 2019 team. Maikel Franco’s ninth inning walk-off home run provided the winning margin as the Phillies earned a much-needed 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals.
The Phillies honored Ryan Howard on Sunday, and in his pre-game speech, he urged the fans not to boo the current team.
"Damn it. They're trying." Ryan Howard implored fans today not to boo the struggling Phillies. https://t.co/1gdShswaA0— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 14, 2019
For a while, it seemed as if the Phillies might make that easy for the fans. They got off to a 3-1 lead thanks to two RBI from J.T. Realmuto, and a quality start from Jake Arrieta who pitched through a well-publicized bone spur in his elbow.
I’m the last one to defend Jake Arrieta, but keeping them in the game (all he’s capable of at this point) should be enough. Offense needs to wake up and score.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) July 14, 2019
Unfortunately, with Arrieta out of the game after five innings, the bullpen had to cover the remaining four. It seemed inevitable that one of the relievers would falter, and sure enough, J.D. Hammer was the culprit. He gave up two runs to tie the game.
7 innings after Ryan Howard tells Philly fans not to boo, #Phillies fans are booing.— Joe Altomonte (@JoeAltomonte) July 14, 2019
The Phillies’ bullpen has struggled this season, but the Nats’ relievers aren’t very good either. You wouldn’t have known that based on this series though.
The Phillies are now up to 8 innings against the Nats bullpen in this series.— Smarty Jones (@TheSmartyJones) July 14, 2019
Number of runs scored against those pitchers holds steady at zero
Perhaps the worst part of the Phillies’ futility was that they weren’t even having competitive at bats. The Nationals’ relievers were simply pumping fastballs in the strike zone, and continuing a season-long trend, the Phillies couldn’t do much with them.
After Jay Bruce went down on a quick three pitches to start the ninth, Maikel Franco came to the plate. While he’s been one of the team’s hottest hitters lately, I don’t think many people really expected him to be the hero. It seemed just as likely that he’d roll a ball to shortstop. But hey, that’s why they play the games, right?
WALK— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 14, 2019
Maikel Franco wins this one with a solo home run in the ninth! pic.twitter.com/FrEGuGtbQA
The Phillies may not be where we hoped they’d be at this point. They’re clinging to a playoff spot with four imposing games against the Dodgers looming. But thanks to Franco’s heroics, we can feel good about the team for one day at least.