As Corey Seager faced Hector Neris in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game with runners on first and second, it was the first time all game the Dodgers had a runner in scoring position. They had still succeeded in slashing a 6-1 deficit down to 6-5.
And Neris still had three outs to get.
[Record scratch] You’re probably wondering how we got into this situation.
TWO HOURS EARLIER
Things were proceeding accordingly in the top of the second: Scott Kingery had gotten the Phillies on the board with a solo shot, but Max Muncy crushed the absolute sloppiest, juiciest meatball from Vince Velasquez in the bottom of the first for a home run that landed in the upper deck.
“0-2 pitch,” Larry Andersen mumbled, “you generally don’t want to throw that down the middle of the plate.”
Now 1-1, this seemed to be unraveling in Valesquezian fashion, but the offense showed up to bail him out. Noted sluggers Brad Miller and Bryce Harper teamed up to get the Phillies five runs on a pair of dingers that had everyone doing slightly less booing.
Up 6-1, a viable lead seemed to be in place. But predictably, the Dodgers offense jabbed away at it as the Phillies refused to add to it. In a way, in was the season in a nutshell: A swift start and fast lead, but too much time ahead of them not to blow it. Cody Bellinger crushed a Velasquez offering in the fourth after an error on Miller had allowed a runner on base, and it was suddenly the far less viable 6-3.
Sometimes, when you’re playing the Dodgers, and you’re the Phillies, it’s not disappointment. It’s just waiting to lose. And as A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson homered the Dodgers down to a 6-5 deficit, it felt like exactly that: Another way for the Phillies to drop a winnable game...
... thanks in large part to a splitter that didn’t split to Matt Beaty in the top of the ninth with one out and two runners on. Hector hadn’t intended to allow two base runners on a lead-off walk and a single; he’d just simply blinked like the rest of us, and they were just there. Beaty was up next, and Hector—whose signature pitch, the Phillies broadcast assured us, was really the perfect pitch, when executed correctly—could only watch as Beaty deposited it in the center field seats. Hector punched his glove, and the Phillies settled into the tepid warmness of yet another loss.
Did I mention Jay Bruce left with a strained right oblique? Jay Bruce left with a strained right oblique.
“The nightmare continues,” Tom McCarthy told his viewing audience.
Nothing left to say after that half inning. I got nothing.— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) July 17, 2019
And yet, the lights stayed on.
Before things could shut down, Hector threw a pitch that hit David Freese in the middle of the back and was immediately ejected. Clayton Kershaw brayed furiously from the Dodgers dugout, and Neris eventually left the field; his catcher, JT Realmuto, not even bothering to contest the decision. Gabe Kapler got past security and made some kind of argument to the home plate umpire, who ejected him as well.
It was high drama for a game that seemed four of five minutes from getting the full “L.” Adam Haseley led off the bottom of the ninth by smashing a hard ground ball into Kenley Jansen, preventing a possible base hit up the middle; a stroke of (poor) luck that seemed especially pertinent when Andrew Knapp hit his one double of the month in the following at-bat.
At this point, with one out and a two-run lead to overtake, a RISP doesn’t stop the Phillies bat boy from packing up the equipment. But Cesar Hernandez singled, loading the bases on a questionable hold of Knapp at third, and Scott Kingery poked a lazy Texas Leaguer into the outfield that allowed Knapp to score, bringing Bryce Harper came to the plate. UPDATE: In my rush to get to Harper’s AB in this recap, I initially hadn’t mentioned Kingery’s single, and have been appropriately flogged for trying to deceive you.
Bryce Harper. A man who is not having the season many imagined for him, but is still finding little channels into impactfulness.
Bryce Harper is now batting .403 with runners in scoring position in 2019.— Alex Carr (@AlexCarrMLB) July 17, 2019
Crap—did I mention the rain delay? I think around now it rained a bit.
Anyway, Bryce came through with a line drive to center field that beat up A.J. Pollock and then rolled all the way to the fence. Two runs came into score, and all the beat writers changed their headlines.
With a serious of victorious bellows, Harper danced across the field.
It has been a rough second half, and the Phillies will lose again. But not tonight.