A three hour rain delay. Three-and-a-half hours and twelve innings that, towards the end, felt like the baseball equivalent of binge-watching the extended-cut version of the Lord of the Rings movies without knowing how the story ends.
After a double-header sweep against the Brown and Gold (who by the end of the series appeared less gold and much more brown), in which almost every part of the offense contributed to assure the win in both games, the final game of this four-game series, scheduled to start at 1:35, felt like it might never start as rain drenched South Philly well into the late afternoon. But the rain eventually moved out, the tarp was rolled up, and Zack Wheeler finally stepped onto the mound at 4:30.
I have been at this Phillies game since 11:30— Joe Edinger (@Joe_Edinger) July 16, 2023
The Phillies have won seven of the last eight game started by Zack Wheeler, including a brilliant outing at the end of May against the Braves in which he threw eight full innings and shut down the formidable Atlanta lineup, leaving them scoreless.
San Diego, however, refused to follow Atlanta’s example for Wheeler. The first batter he faced, Ha-Seong Kim, launched a sweeper into the left field stands to put the Padres up by 1-0.
But this is how the previous two games started; the Padres went up early, the Phillies rallied and won it each time.
Early on though it seemed like the Phillies’ offense didn’t get a copy of the script.
In the top of the inning, Xander Bogaerts homered to give the Padres a 2-0 lead. The Phillies went down in order in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Seth Lugo only needed to throw ten pitches to do it.
Matt Carpenter and Trent Grisham both doubled in the fifth, adding another run to pad the Padres’ lead. 3-0 Padres.
In the bottom of the fifth the Phillies finally got on the board when Bryson Stott launched a sinker into the right field stands for a solo home run. 3-1.
A moment of terror gripped fans in the top of the sixth. Jake Cronenworth bunted and popped the ball popped into the air. Zack Wheeler darted to his right after it, his eyes never leaving the ball as it drifted toward the third base line. At the same time, Drew Ellis, playing third, bolted for the ball. It dropped into Wheeler’s glove just as Ellis fell to the ground. Wheeler, still running, fell over Ellis. For a moment, as both laid on the ground, the crowd gasped and the fear was palpable - was Wheeler okay? Did he tweak a knee or an arm?
Then Zack held up his glove - the ball firmly nestled in its webbing - he and rose to his feet. The inning ended. Wheeler helped Ellis to his feet and the two made their way back to the dugout.
The scare proved to be an auspicious turning point in the game.
The offense finally awoke.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kyle Schwarber reminded everyone of his worth as he homered to right field. Trea Turner lined to third and beat the throw to first. Bryce Harper doubled to right, sending Turner to third. J.T. Realmuto drove a ball down the third base line that skimmed past the glove of a diving Manny Machado and both Turner and Harper scored. The Phillies had taken the lead, 4-3.
30 doesn't care if you're an elite athlete pic.twitter.com/UvTGDND29j— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 16, 2023
That was the end of Padres’ starter Seth Lugo’s day. Reliever Tom Cosgrove was tasked with getting out of the inning without any more damage done.
He wasn’t successful.
Stott singled to shallow center, moving J.T. to third. Marsh dodged a few inside pitches to draw a walk and load the bases. Cosgrove then walked Drew Ellis on four pitches to bring in another run. The Phillies were now up 5-3.
Home plate umpire Brock Ballou decided the Padres needed assistance and called a pitch to Johan Rojas that was well off the plate a called third strike. And that was how, with bases loaded, the sixth inning ended for the Fightins - with a bad ump call.
Zack Wheeler finished his day after seven complete innings and having struck out seven. Giving up only three earned runs, it was a solid showing. Today turned out to be his fifth win decision since May 27th, and he hasn’t recorded a loss decision since May 22nd.
The two-run lead would not last.
Gregory Soto pitched the eighth and wasted no time loading the bases. Fernando Tatis Jr. singled to drive in two runs. And just like that the lead vanished and the game was tied at five each. Soto got the hook. Yunior Marte got the ball and finally end the inning when Gary Sanchez grounded out.
The ninth ended with the game still tied at five each.
Top of the tenth. With Kim at the plate, Strahm threw a high fastball that slipped past Realmuto and allowed the Padres’ ghost runner to advance to third. Kim struck out, but Juan Soto hit a fly ball to Rojas in centerfield that allowed the runner on third to tag up and score.
Padres took the lead, 6-5.
Manny Machado reached first when a sinker thrown down the middle of the plate was called a ball. The officiating during this series has been, to put it mildly, excruciatingly inept.
Bottom of the tenth. Bob Melvin sent in Josh Hader to put the game to bed. Hader came into the game with a 1.06 ERA over 34 innings pitched.
Schwarber struck out swinging. Turner grounded out, allowing the ghost runner Rojas to reach third.
With their final out looming and down by a run, Bryce Harper stepped into the batter’s box. He swung at the first pitch, a slider down and away and missed. He did not miss the second pitch. Harper got a piece of a slider and shot it into shallow centerfield where it dropped in for a single. Rojas scored.
Once again the game was tied.
Jeff Hoffman took the mound. Fernando Tatis Jr. grounded out to move the ghost runner to third. Gary Sanchez fired a bullet that Trea Turner dove to the ground to catch for the second out. Matt Carpenter then grounded out to end the inning. Hoffman, who’s given up one earned run in his last seven appearances, racked up his first scoreless frame of the day.
Jeff Hoffman with a big 1-2-3 inning in the 11th. What a find he has been for the Phillies.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) July 16, 2023
Phillies up to bat. Marsh bunted. Padres’ catcher Sanchez scrambled for the ball and slipped as he threw to third. Stott came off the bag as he slid past third. Alec Bohm singled and Marsh reached second. With runners on first and second, Nick Castellanos came up to the plate to pinch hit for Hall. The crowd rose to their feet. Electricity filled the air.
And then Casty hit into a double play to end the inning.
Hoffman toed the rubber once more.
Between pitches Edmundo Sosa, playing third, ran towards home to pick up a piece of trash. Rougned Odor, in the batter’s box with a single strike on him, disengaged without calling time out and was penalized with a second strike. He argued with the ump that he thought Sosa had called time, which Sosa had not. Padres’ manager Bob Melvin stormed onto the field to argue and was ejected for his efforts. Odor struck out swinging.
Trent Grisham grounded out to send the ghost runner to third. Kim popped up to the end top of the inning.
This game has aged me years— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) July 16, 2023
Bottom of the twelfth.
Rojas bunted and almost beat out to the throw to first, but was called out. However, he succeeded in moving Sosa to third.
Schwarber came to the plate. With two strikes on him, he drove a slider into left field. It was enough for Sosa to tag up and sprint down the third base line and slide into home.
And that’s how the good guys won it today: after a three-hour rain delay, and three-and-a-half hours of baseball, they walk it off on a sacrifice fly in the twelfth inning. The Phillies took three out of four in this first series coming off the All-Star break, and their record improved to 51-42.
Phils walk it off on a Schwarber sac fly! pic.twitter.com/yRZapRP3Yn— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 17, 2023
The Phillies host the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday at 6:40pm. Aaron Nola (8-6, 4.39 ERA) is scheduled to face Julio Teheran (2-3, 3.64 ERA).