There are ways that one can open a game as leadoff hitter. Many an old-school fan would prefer that hitters take some pitches, see the stuff that the pitcher has that evening, help his teammates. Others would prefer that the leadoff hitter go up hackin’. Get a pitch you want to hit and let ‘er rip. For the Phillies, they saw a guy just called up from the minors ahead of a bullpen game for the Yankees and decided that pouncing early is the way to go. Jean Segura stepped into the box, sized up the first pitch and away we go.
First pitch, first run. #RingTheBell pic.twitter.com/FKlzh36E30— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 21, 2021
With Spencer Howard starting and not expected to go very long, getting a lead was always going to be important in this game, so the fact that Segura jumped on a pitch to open the scoring was big.
Howard, for his part, was magnificent. He only threw three innings as the team didn’t want to overexpose him against this lineup, but he was very effective. He topped out at 96 in the third and final innings, showing that he still has the stuff to be a part of this team’s plans.
In the third inning, the Phillies grabbed another one when J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch, then displayed a solid demonstration of baserunning by scoring on a double by Bryce Harper.
Toe-tap Bryce Harper is a thing of beauty idc pic.twitter.com/8G5yhxNtxd— Fuzzy (@fuzzyfromyt) July 21, 2021
Andrew McCutchen walked and the theme of the night for the Phillies was created: could they get hits with runners in scoring position? In this case, no they could not. Rhys Hoskins lined out, Didi Gregorius flied out and Brad Miller grounded out to end the threat with no one else scoring. It was an issue.
Cristopher Sanchez was the next man up in the bullpen game, but he struggled. He struck out the first two batters, but then gave up a home run to Gleyber Torres, a single to Brett Gardner and a double to Greg Allen that scored Gardner and the game was tied at two. Sanchez would retire the final batter, but he was unable to go further, ruining what was probably a planned 2-3 inning outing.
The Phillies would threaten again in the sixth when Hoskins walked, went to second on a force out, then stayed while Miller walked himself. Ronald Torreyes would ground out a deep playing third baseman who threw to second to get a force. Initially called safe, a challenge by the Yankees proved worthy as Rougned Odor kept his big toenail on the base long enough to get a needed out as it would have been bases loaded with no outs. As it stood, with two outs, the next batter, Luke Williams, grounded out and once again, the team couldn’t score runs with runners in scoring position.
Connor Brogdon kept the Yankees at bay for two innings, but because he couldn’t pitch the rest of the game, someone had to come in next. That someone was Hector Neris. Now, Neris has had some good outings lately. He’s looked better with his stuff and even locked down a save on Sunday. Perhaps he was turning a corner?
Estevan Florial singled with one out, stole second on the always slow to the plate Neris, then scored on a Giancarlo Stanton single that gave the Yankees the lead. When Neris hung a splitter to Odor, well, you can imagine what would happen.
Another Rougned Odor home run! 5-2 Yankees pic.twitter.com/w96xGhLrdX— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) July 22, 2021
To their credit, the Phillies would battle back in the eight thanks to the Yankees’ pitching. It wasn’t the Phillies; it was the Yankees’ pitching. Zach Britton was the one to start the inning and he was all over the place. Torres didn’t help him by booting a ball off the bat of Hoskins that led to the leadoff hitter getting on, but Britton walked Gregorius next and somehow got Miller to groundout softly, allowing the two runners to move up. When Torreyes walked to load the bases, Britton’s night was over. Nick Nelson was next up and he immediately gave up a two-run single to Luke Williams that brought the Phillies within one.
Luke Williams knocks in 2— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) July 22, 2021
Phils within 1
Nelson walked Segura to load the bases again, then uncorked a wild pitch that was nowhere near the vicinity of the plate, tying the game up at five. Once again though, the Phillies could not capitalize when Realmuto struck out in a pretty poor at bat. Harper walked after nearly hitting a ball through his ankle, but McCutchen, even with all the wildness on display right in front of him, swung at the first pitch he saw, flying out to centerfield and letting the Yankees walk away with the game still tied.
The Yankees made it interesting in the ninth when Brad Miller did this on a fly ball hit at him.
Brad Miller, what the hell are you doing here?pic.twitter.com/xbJW8eaTUn— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) July 22, 2021
It really was something to behold, but luckily for the Phillies, they used a five man infield and it worked, Odor grounding to first and Hoskins firing home to get a second out. When Gary Sanchez popped out to second for the final out of the inning, a breath of relief was felt all the way back to Philadelphia as the game went to extra innings.
In the Phillies’ half, Torreyes bunted Miller to third to get him there with one out, but once again, the team could not hit him in either with a groundball, sacrifice fly or base hit. Miller was stranded and the Yankees went to their half with a chance to win. To their credit, they did the direct opposite, using a sacrifice bunt and a single to plate the winning run and take the game.
Wasted opportunities yet again came back to haunt the team. It’s been a familiar refrain for this team and currently stands in their way of really taking off in the division race. They’ll head back home for a gargantuan stretch of home games beginning with Atlanta.