The night didn’t start off well.
Or on time.
Three of the Phillies on the team - Zach Eflin, Luke Williams, Andrew Knapp - had to be placed on the COVID injured list, which also delayed the start of the game as they had to finish the contact tracing to see if anyone else tested positive. That was an issue since Knapp was in the original starting lineup, but since J.T. Realmuto is an ironman, that wasn’t an issue.
Aaron Nola was on the hill, looking to build off of his outstanding start last week in San Diego and for the beginning of the game, it looked like he would. He only allowed one hit through the first five innings, striking out seven and walking nary a Diamondbacks batter. All of his stuff was working - fastball, curveball and even the changeup. He had Arizona hitters on their heels all night.
Unfortunately for Nola, the offense for the Phillies just did not seem to want to score any runs. They got on the board in the third when Bryce Harper stepped to the plate with a man on and a struggling pitcher on the mound. Trying to sneak a fastball past Harper, Taylor Widener was unsuccessful.
Bryce Harper hits his 25th homer of the season. Phillies lead, 2-0. pic.twitter.com/s6yfeh7hwO— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) August 28, 2021
Harper has been great all year. He is the offense right now. His home runs are almost the sole way the team has been scoring of late. They are not able to get hits and back up the starters with any kind of run support, which means the starters have to be pinpoint. Nola was that tonight until the sixth inning.
In the sixth, Nick Ahmed started it off with a single, then scored when Josh Rojas tripled into the rightfielder corner.
Nola had been cruising until this inning, keeping his pitch count low, but the batter before Rojas had a nine pitch at bat that seemed to take a lot out of him, meaning Girardi was going to his bullpen after that triple to get a reliever. Too bad that reliever gave up a sacrifice fly to the next batter that tied the game at two.
The Phillies though would not just roll over. They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh thanks to a walk to Odubel Herrera, an error by Ahmed that allowed Jean Segura to reach and an intentional walk to Harper. That brought J.T. Realmuto to the plate, a situation he had better get used to in the coming weeks. He’s going to see a lot of Harper getting nothing to hit, so it is imperative to this team’s playoff hopes that he start delivering. Tonight, he did.
J.T. Realmuto gives the Phillies a lead in the 7th pic.twitter.com/bOhboauXbo— Justin Groc (@jgroc) August 28, 2021
That gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead, a lead they gave to Hector Neris. Neris got into a little trouble thanks to a walk and an error that allowed the Diamondbacks to put runners on the corners with no one out. Neris wiggled out of it without allowing a run, giving them a lead to take into the top of the ninth.
Ian Kennedy time. Game over, right?
Christian Walker - Arizona Diamondbacks (7) 2-run. pic.twitter.com/18GS5H99Bk— MLB HR Tracker (@hr_mlb) August 28, 2021
It was a historical home run as it was the 26th blown save of the Phillies’ season, a record for the franchise. Don’t worry, it got worse.
Ketel Marte - Arizona Diamondbacks (8) pic.twitter.com/pI2yjRRGif— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) August 28, 2021
If ever there was a deflating home run, that was it. You could almost feel the air completely leave the stadium, even as you sit on your couch. It was silent. As well it should be since the Phillies have given so little hope that they could win games like this this year.
Oh ye of little faith.
With the ghost runner on second, Brad Miller came up with one out and this happened.
BRAD MILLER SAYS WAIT A DAMN SECOND pic.twitter.com/UB88l7yLJB— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 28, 2021
Now, in the home run that the Diamondbacks hit to take the lead in the tenth, Enyel de los Santos was the one who served it up.
Not Archie Bradley.
Not Jose Alvarado.
Not Sam Coonrod.
Since we aren’t privy to the manager’s thinking (don’t want to give away pertinent information, you recall), we don’t know if something was wrong with any one of those three. But when de los Santos came back out for the eleventh, the assumption was that something was wrong with them. Perhaps Girardi didn’t want Alvarado or Coonrod pitching back to back days fresh off the IL? Whatever the case, EDLS was back out there for the eleventh inning and managed to get through it unscathed.
In the bottom of the eleventh, the Phillies saw a bunt attempt erase their ghost runner at third, but when Odubel Herrera singled into rightfield, that gave them runners on first and second with one out. Segura came up and as he has for most of the season, he came through for the team when they needed him most.
A much, much needed victory for the team as they stay 5 1⁄2 games behind the Braves, a total that still isn’t insurmountable. Let’s do it again tomorrow.