Newly acquired Brandon Workman, normally a solid relief pitcher, has struggled in his first two outings in a Phillies uniform. He blew a save in Saturday night’s come-from-ahead 5-4 loss to Atlanta and was asked to protect a 5-3 lead in the 9th last night. Workman struggled once again. With runners on 1st and 2nd and two out, Freddie Freeman lined a shot into the left-center field gap that looked for all the world like it would tie the game up.
Instead, what happened was the most exciting play of the Phillies season so far.
One run was certain to score. There was no preventing that. But with the speedy Dansby Swanson off at the crack of the bat from first, it was going to take a perfectly executed series of throws to nail him at the plate.
Kids, this is why coaches teach the fundamentals.
The speedy Roman Quinn first had to take the right angle to the ball from his spot deep in center field to cut off the ball. Quinn used his speed to get to the ball quickly and then fired a seed to his cut-off man, shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Quinn’s momentum was taking him toward the left field line, and yet, he steadied himself, planted his feet, and fired and absolute bullet strike to Gregorius.
Had the ball bounced on its way there, or if the throw had gotten away from Didi, there would have been no play at the plate. With the center fielder’s body drifting toward the left field stands, it would have been understandable if the sailed in that direction. But Quinn centered himself, threw across his body, and made a terrific throw.
Gregorius, who alertly ran out into shallow left field to receive the throw, whipped around quickly and, in one motion, fired a two-hop strike to catcher Andrew Knapp at home plate.
Sure, Gregorius’ throw bounced a couple times before getting to Knapp, but the throw was on target and got there quickly. The most important part of Gregorius’ play was the transition from catching the ball with his back to the infield and, in one motion, whipping around 180 degrees to throw home.
From there, Knapp made the play of the game, catching the bouncing ball and, as he drifted into the baseline to retrieve it, tagged Swanson out before the Braves’ shortstop could touch home plate.
These are the types of plays that are practiced during spring training for weeks on end before the season begins, and professional ballplayers should be able to make these kinds of plays. But when the game was on the line and with the Phillies were staring a six-game losing streak streak in the face, they executed the fundamentals that little league coaches across the country are desperate for their kids to be able to mimic.
Last night, Quinn, Gregorius and Knapp put on a clinic of fundamental baseball with the game on the line, and bailed out a bullpen that tried their very best to blow yet another baseball game here in 2020.
On Episode 410 of Hittin’ Season, I talked about the Phils’ series, and the remarkable ending of last night’s game, with Liz Roscher of Yahoo! Sports. In addition, we broke down every trade Matt Klentak has ever made as general manager of the Phillies. How’s he done? Listen to find out!