This was supposed to be the grand debut of Spencer Howard. With the team’s prize free agency acquisition going down for the year, it made sense to promote the team’s prize prospect. It went well, then....hoo boy.
It was a rough start for Howard. Leading off the game with a triple given up to Trevor Story isn’t exactly what you’d call “optimal”. Giving up a single on the next pitch is even less so. Howard was down 1-0 and had throw exactly two major league pitches. He’d finish the inning unscathed, but in the second, Raimel Tapia doubled to lead off, Yonathan Daza singled and Drew Butera hit into a double play, scoring Tapia and giving the Rockies a 2-0 lead. In the third, Story reached on an error, Charlie Blackmon singled him to third and Nolan Arenado grounded into a run scoring fielder’s choice, making the lead 3-0. Bullpen activity started, but nothing came of it as Howard settled and ended the inning. That was when Adam Haseley had had enough.
In the bottom of the third, Jean Segura singled, Didi Gregorius singled and Bryce Harper walked, loading the bases with no one out. J.T. Realmuto hit a sacrifice fly, followed by a Jay Bruce walk, re-loading the bases for Andrew McCutchen. He popped up, bringing Haseley to the plate. He leaned into a 1-2 fastball and drilled the pitch 405 feet for a grand slam, making it 5-3. In the fourth, the Phillies had Jay Bruce hit a three-run home run, extending the lead to 8-3. Comfortable, right?
Howard would pitch into the seventh, being removed after walking Story on four pitches and reaching his pitch count for the evening. Nick Pivetta cleaned up and brought the team into the 8th, still with a commanding lead. That was when the fun began.
Ranger Suarez began the eighth and walked Ryan McMahon before striking out the next two batters. Daza walked, bringing the weak hitting Butera up. You know what happened next right? Of course you do! Butera hit a rocket for a three-run home run of his own, cutting the lead to 8-6. Ian Desmond hit a pinch single, bringing Story back up. He doubled and scored Desmond, but was thrown out at third by Harper to end the inning with the Phillies clinging to an 8-7 lead. They’d get an insurance run they ended up needing from Gregorius before Hector Neris began the ninth.
Now, so far this season, it’s been smooth sailing with Neris. He hasn’t blown a save opportunity and has been the rock of an unsteady bullpen. Tonight though, he didn’t have it.
He allowed an Arenado single in between strikeouts of Blackmon and McMahon, but then allowed back to back singles, scoring Arenado and putting the tying run at second. That was enough for virtual Girardi, who summoned Victor Arano. Arano allowed a single, which usually would be bad news....
....but tonight, Andrew freakin’ McCutchen threw out Brendan Rodgers at the plate, ending the game and preserving the win for the Phillies.
Howard ended up having good overall numbers for his debut, clearly rattled with nerves to start things off, but he still gets a quality start on his belt. Better things will come.
The two teams meet again tomorrow in an afternoon matinee.