We don’t know what the future holds for this series against the Cardinals. We’re so used to the pendulum of momentum swinging constantly away from the Phillies that to witness what happened in that ninth inning yesterday seems almost unconscionable. Usually, it’s the Cardinals the ones on the receiving end of a sprinkle of magic dust from the baseball gods that to see the Phillies getting it is jarring.
We know that the biggest parts of the inning were the ones that get videos made out of them: the Jean Segura single, the hit by Bryson Stott the “single” from Brandon Marsh. There were some much more subtle moments in the inning that might get overlooked if you don’t take the time to sit down and appreciate them. Here are four of those moments that were just as important when taken in the context of the inning.
The Bryce Harper takes
When Rhys Hoskins struck out and J.T. Realmuto singled with the one out to bring the tying run to the plate, it brought to the plate the reigning NL MVP, physically compromised as he might be. The moment was seemingly made for him, the mere existence of his standing in the batter’s box teeming with the possibility of it being added to his long history of highlights in his career.
This is it. This is why you signed him, injury or not— The Good Phight - x (@TheGoodPhight) October 7, 2022
Though he is pretty clearly still recovering from his thumb injury (and probably the oblique tweaking he did a while back), Harper has never made excuses for his struggles of late. He’s still just as dangerous every time he comes up and prepares as such.
As he approached the plate, Ryan Helsley hadn’t lost his control yet. During the strikeout to Hoskins, he looked just fine and the single to Realmuto wasn’t exactly scalded. The faith of the entire stadium was still very much in Helsley’s hands. He got ahead of Harper pretty quickly, getting the count to 1-2. It was at this point that Helsley tried his best to blow Harper away and was wildly unsuccessful, offering two pitches nowhere near the zone.
The announcers guessed that because Helsley had missed so badly with the fastball, he’d come back on the 3-2 pitch with a curveball, something he was throwing for strikes during his outing. They were right and the pitch was a good, back foot curveball that Harper just spit on, nary a muscle twitching to indicate he would swing.
We’ve seen players swing at that pitch all the time, trying to do too much with a pitch they can’t even make contact with. Harper has fallen victim to this himself, but here, he just took it and trotted to first, content to take the base given to him. It might not be the best outcome, most fans wanting Harper to drive the ball out of the ballpark, but it’s just as important as it continued the train moving and helped accelerate the loss of control that would ultimately doom Helsley in the inning. It also set up the next subtle thing that happened that inning.
The Nick Castellanos at bat
Castellanos followed Harper in the order and didn’t have the greatest at bats on the day. He, like a lot of the Phillies, just seemed kind of....there. We can talk about the entirety of his season later on, but the sense of dread that he has given the fanbase this season thanks to his lack of production relative to the monetary outlay given to him was palpable. It was a pressure packed at bat that Castellanos has not thrived in this season.
Helsley, though, had already started to lose it in the previous at bat with Harper. Sometimes, hitters come to the plate ready to jump at the first strike they see, hoping to be the hero the team needs at that time. It would have been easy for Castellanos to give in to that feeling. After all, what better way to endear yourself to a fanbase, to make them forget how poorly the season has gone to that point than to drive a ball and bring multiple runs home?
Instead, Castellanos gave a rather muted plate appearance, not swinging at pitches that he couldn’t do damage with. It helped that several of the pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone, of course, but Castellanos didn’t give in. He just kept being patient, taking his walk and passing the torch to Alec Bohm.
Bryson Stott’s missed call
Once the chaos of Bohm’s being hit by a pitch and Segura’s single had died down, there was still a game to play. After all, the game was only 3-2 and the Phillies still needed runs. Stott tried to get one the hard way by offering a safety squeeze bunt that can be debated for its strategical wisdom, but Stott would still go down 0-2 in his plate appearance. Facing Andrew Pallante, Stott would not be able to spit on pitches that were wildly out of the strike zone like his teammates before him did. Pallante was much more in control and Stott had to battle against some good pitches.
This one, though, may have changed things.
Folks: that’s a strike.
Now, the Phillies have been overdue to have some calls go their way, so there isn’t any reason for Cardinals’ fans to think this would have ultimately cause a different ending to the game. After all, there were several calls earlier in the game that went against the Phillies.
This pitch to Stott earlier in the game came with Bohm on third after his leadoff double and his moving up on a Segura groundball, so we’ll never know what could have happened had that been called a ball. But the fact that Stott was given a new life and did something with it changed how the rest of that inning unfolded. His “single” to Paul Goldschmidt allowed Edmundo Sosa to score and pushed another run across for the Phillies.
Speaking of which...
Edmundo Sosa’s perfect slide
The ball that Stott hit came off the bat at 83.7 miles per hour, nothing approaching what could be termed as “scalded”. Goldschmidt made a solid play to snare the ball, turn and fire home with a good throw that Yadier Molina couldn’t capitalize on. Sosa slid home ahead of the tag, making the score 4-2.
EDMUNDO SOSA REVENGE PLAY pic.twitter.com/aqhqzOH2Lw— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 7, 2022
What’s so subtle about this play is that the slide by Sosa is so, so impressive. Freeze that video just before the tag and look at where Molina is set up.
Molina has good position there, giving the plate to avoid a “not giving a lane” call but still close enough that a quick swipe tag would probably get the job done.
Now look at that slide by Sosa. Back half of the plate as the target, head first to make sure his hand gets there as fast as possible. Just a perfect, perfect slide that could have gone a different way had Sosa slid in a different fashion. Had he gone feet first, he’d have to slide away from the plate and still try to reach back to get that back corner of the plate on the way by. Bad timing on that kind of slide and he might miss the plate entirely. By also sliding headfirst, he’s made himself as small a target to tag as possible. Going feet first puts the runner more upright and giving Molina a bigger target to try and swipe at as he goes by. It’s all so quick, done in the blink of an eye that you might not realize how much goes into that slide until after the fact.
It was a wild ride, that ninth inning. Segura’s hit will go down in Phillies’ lore, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the series, but these are things that all add up to a team putting up big runs in an inning. Take a minute and appreciate them.