For the most part, it was a frustrating night to be a Philadelphia Phillies fan. Jerad Eickhoff was the starter for the home team on Saturday night, which meant that there would inevitably be little-to-no offense generated for at least the first half of the game. Jerad only averages 2.75 runs of support per start–a number which is tied for 13th among MLB starting pitchers. So when Brandon Phillips doubled in the 4th inning to score Freddie Freeman and put the Braves ahead 1-0, it was a safe bet that Eickhoff would not be receiving a “win” for his efforts.
Eickhoff struggled with command throughout the start, and therefore lasted only 5 innings. Coincidentally, in the 6th inning, the Philies got on the board twice. Cesar Hernandez singled to begin the inning, and Aaron Altherr doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. The dynamic duo is batting .329 and .379, respectively, and their ability to get on base has generated nearly all the offense for the club since Howie Kendrick was placed on the disabled list and Aaron was promoted to a starting role.
Odubel Herrera singled to drive home Hernandez and keep runners on the corners, while Maikel Franco followed with a fielder’s choice to third base that scored Altherr. The Phillies were leading 2-1.
Philadelphia missed a great opportunity to score in the 7th inning, when Freddy Galvis smacked a one-out double to left field. He was caught trying to steal third during Cameron Rupp’s at-bat. Rupp would walk, and pinch-hitter Daniel Nava would then double to left field, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Galvis would have scored on the Nava hit, and the Phillies would have had the 2-run cushion that would have won them the game. But Freddy was caught stealing, Cesar struck out with 2 runners in scoring position, and the Phils were still only winning by a run.
Pete Mackanin sent Edubray Ramos out in the top of the 9th inning of a 2-1 ball game. Look: I understand that it is important not to drain the arms of your relievers so early on in the season, but it is important for Mackanin to name a closer and let him finish games. In the future, Ramos may become the Phillies closer. For now, Joaquin Benoit (who Pete named the closer two weeks ago) or Hector Neris should be pitching in 1-run, 9th inning situations. Ramos allowed a home run to Brandon Phillips that tied the game and, after a hitless inning from the home team, sent the game to extras.
Jeanmar Gomez, who hadn’t pitched in a game since April 14, had his number called for the top of the 10th. The first batter that he faced, Dansby Swanson, singled to left field. Then came the part that made Phillies fans want to turn off the television and go to bed. Pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio sacrifice-bunted to Cameron Rupp, who threw him out at first base. Tommy Joseph then fired the ball to an empty third base, which resulted in Swanson advancing to third base.
Gomez struck out the next batter. Thus there was a runner on third base with two outs in the top of the 10th inning–the game was still tied. Adonis Garcia hit a weak grounder to Maikel Franco, who after a hesitant exchange from glove to hand, airmailed the throw to Joseph at first. The runner may have been safe anyway, but the play would have been much closer. Jeanmar finished the inning without any more damage, but the Braves were up 3-2, and the Phils needed some instant offense.
Cameron Rupp, whose batting average dropped to .186 after an 0-3 night on Saturday, struck out to begin the bottom of the 10th inning. Rookie Brock Stassi, pinch-hitting for Gomez, then pulled a single to right field and began the rally. Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Altherr, the most reliable bats on the Phillies (that hurts to say a little bit), each singled to load the bases with 1 out. Odubel Herrera was up, and Odubel Herrera struck out.
Maikel Franco stepped up to the batter’s box. Franco experienced his first walk-off last season, but because of confusion and a mindless error, the game-winner was not recorded a hit. Maikel got his first career walk-off hit Saturday. On the second pitch of the at-bat, the 24-year-old Dominican crushed a ball of the right field fence, and two runs scored to give the Phillies their first win-streak since August. After his critical error the inning before, all was made right by Maikel.
It was a thrilling end to a thrilling (and incredibly disheartening) game. #BeLikeMaik.
Photo by Scott U (via Flickr)