It has been a while in this team’s history where a win like the Phillies had last night caused as much angst and consternation as last night’s game did. What the team really needed as soon as possible was a morale boosting victory, one without drama, without second guessing, without any of that extra stuff that tends to linger for a day or two. The Orioles, at least in theory, provided the perfect opportunity to grab such a victory.
Sending Zack Wheeler to the mound against Baltimore seemed like it would be easy enough. He’s been as advertised in his first two starts, so confidence was high that he, like Aaron Nola the night before, would be able to set his cruise control on quite early and ride an offense that has been quite good lately to victory. The first inning did not provide that confidence. After getting the first two outs rather easily, Wheeler walked the next batter and allowed a single, putting two men on base with two outs. It gave that feeling of “C’mon man, it’s the ORIOLES!” to anyone watching it. Yet, when Wheeler got Pedro Severino to ground out, a sigh of relief came up that crisis had been averted.
Unfortunately, the resurgent Alex Cobb, who has been quite sterling this year, kept the Phillies offense at bay for a while. His first two innings had him also performing effectively, headed into the bottom of the third with the scoreboard still empty. Jay Bruce led off that inning with a hot shot that first baseman Chris Davis couldn’t handle, allowing him to reach second on the error. When Scott Kingery grounded to third, Bruce hustled to third base on the throw, the first of two baserunning plays that proved to be critical to the inning. Adam Haseley walked to put men on the corners, bringing up the struggling Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen roped a 3-2 pitch to right center, scoring Bruce easily, but it was the second hustling play by Haseley, who was running on the pitch, that allowed the Phillies to get their second run of the inning.
Andrew McCutchen 4 RBIs over his last two starts— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 12, 2020
It was an impressive display of baserunning that netted the team two runs and the lead.
In the fifth, Bruce came up again and unloaded on a hanging curveball from Cobb and hit a ball in a spot that players rarely reach.
That made the score 3-0, setting up Wheeler to continue his run of dominance he has been on thus far.
Unfortunately, that run came to an end in the top of the sixth when the Orioles pushed three across the plate. Anthony Santander led the inning off with a double, then scored on a Renato Nunez single. Nunez was then sent home to score on a double by Rio Ruiz, making it 3-2. When Dwight Smith, Jr. singled home Ruiz with one out, it tied the score at 3. Austin Hays followed that with a fielder’s choice and at that point, with Chris Davis coming up, Girardi decided to summon Adam Morgan. Morgan did his job, retired Davis and preserved the tied ballgame. In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies chased Cobb from the game with a hit from Bryce Harper and a walk to J.T. Realmuto, but reliever Tanner Scott took care of the rest of the inning. The rest of the game would be a bullpen battle.
Tonight, it was Tommy Hunter’s turn to serve up the lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Pat Valaika, then an RBI double to Hanser Alberto, followed by an RBI single by Santander. Just like that, it was 5-3. Hunter was saved when the Orioles ran into a strikeout/throw ‘em out double play that sufficiently stifled any kind of rally they could muster, but the damage was done and yet another member of the bullpen failed at doing his job.
The score would remain that way into the eighth when Jose Alvarez gave up a one out double to Smith, Jr., then got the next batter to ground out, sending pinch runner Andrew Velasquez to third. That proved critical because Velasquez, with two outs, tried to steal home and looked to be successful before the Phillies challenged.
The Orioles near steal of home on Realmuto's throw back to Alvarez in the 8th ends up being an even bigger play. Runner was originally ruled safe, which would've given BAL a 3-run lead, but call overturned on replay review to end inning: pic.twitter.com/5X8cYxmAkj— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 12, 2020
That play was huge as it kept the score at 5-3 headed into the bottom of the frame.
In that bottom of the frame, Hoskins led off with a single, bringing Harper up, who did this:
Bryce Harper 2 run shot— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 12, 2020
to tie it up!
No batting gloves
2 HRs, 5 RBIs last 2 nights
And what’s better than tying a baseball game up? How about taking the lead!
With a rested Hector Neris lurking in the bullpen and momentum on their side, the Phillies looked to take the first game of the ser—
OH MY GOD PHILLIES WYD pic.twitter.com/U9f4ySCxji— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 12, 2020
After giving up the lead and loading the bases with two out, Neris induced a pop up to the infield. On a ball that was clearly not anywhere in the vicinity of the third baseman’s ball, somehow, some way, the Phillies managed to do....that. It was demoralizing, giving up a lead to a play that is simple. But they had another chance.
After they loaded the bases themselves in the bottom of the ninth on a hit from Hoskins and some patience from Harper and Realmuto, Didi Gregorius had his chance to play hero and he came up big.
A flare from Didi tied the game and sent it to extra innings where the Phillies would be exposed for the first time to the nonsense rule of placing a runner on second to start the inning. With Deolis Guerra being called upon to stem the tide, he instead gave up a what looked like a hit to Austin Hays. However, Roman Quinn, brought on in the ninth for defense, made an ill conceived diving attempt at the ball and....well....just watch:
AUSTIN HAYS WITH THE INSIDE THE PARK* HR pic.twitter.com/Py86cx8hpd— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) August 12, 2020
That was all the Orioles would get in their half of the tenth, but again, the Phillies had their chance to do some damage, sending Segura to second to begin the inning. Jay Bruce came through yet again, singling home Segura and bringing the Phillies within one. Scott Kingery, struggling mightily this season, struck out for the first out of the tenth. Phil Gosselin, pinch hitting for Adam Haseley with lefty Paul Fry on the mound, barreled up yet another ball, drilling a pitch back to the pitcher that deflected off of Fry’s foot and put men on first and second with one out.
On the first pitch the next batter, Fry and catcher Pedro Severino got crossed up, a passed ball advancing the runner to second and third. That batter, Roman Quinn, grounded to shortstop with the infield in, meaning that if the game was to be won, it had to be done by Rhys Hoskins. A pitching change brought right hander Travis Lakins into the game. The stage was set.
Hoskins grounded out, ending the game.
The tale of this game was the miscues. The comeback(s) were nice, exciting even. But the mental gaffes committed by Segura and Quinn were the types of mistakes that absolutely should never happen on a major league field. They’re inexcusable.