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Aaron Altherr almost committed “Merkle’s Boner”

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Update (12:23 AM EDT): Franco has officially been credited with a single rather than a fielder’s choice out, per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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For those that aren’t familiar, “Merkle’s Boner” — get your mind out of the gutter: in this case, “boner” means “mistake” — refers to a baserunning mistake committed by New York Giants player Fred Merkle. Merkle never touched second base on what appeared to be a game-winning hit against the Cubs. Instead, the game ended in a tie and the Cubs went on to win the makeup game. The Cubs then went on to win the National League pennant by one game over the Giants.

Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr paid homage to “Merkle’s Boner” on Wednesday night. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Giants, the Phillies had the bases loaded with one out against reliever Jake Peavy. Maikel Franco, who had tied the game up at 4-4 in the eighth, ripped a single to center field. Center fielder Denard Span just let the ball roll by him as the game was decided then. Altherr, however, never touched second base, so the Giants got the out there. Had there been two outs instead of one, the Phillies’ game-winning run would’ve been erased. Instead, Altherr was simply ruled out and Franco’s hit was changed to a fielder’s choice out.

Fortunately for the Giants, the Dodgers got smoked by the Rockies, so they maintain a two-game lead in the NL West.

For more details on the Merkle incident, Baseball Reference has a great writeup.

Pete Mackanin on Aaron Nola: “He’s a little confused right now”

AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola looked like one of the best pitchers in the National League through the first two months of the season, but things have completely collapsed for him over his last four starts. He command abandoned him yet again Sunday against the Giants, as he was chased after giving up five runs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings. He also hit three batters, the third of which forced in a run. There’s no way he did that on purpose, but Johnny Cueto later retaliated by hitting Maikel Franco with a pitch. Fun times.

After posting a 2.65 ERA through his first 12 starts this season, Nola owns a 15.23 ERA (22 runs in 13 innings) over his last four starts. He hasn’t made it through four innings in any of them. His ERA now sits at 4.45 for the year.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that they are “concerned,” but they intend to have him pitch through his struggles. He’s still lined up to make his next scheduled start Saturday against the Royals. For now, at least.

“He’s a little confused right now,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s approaching his first full year in the big leagues so he’s going to have some adversity. He probably hasn’t had any in quite a while, if at all. You can see his confidence is shaken. But he’s smart and a competitor. He’ll bounce back at some point.”

There’s been no talk of any physical issue, so Nola is mostly chalking it up to his mechanics being out of whack. The 23-year-old made a quick rise through the minors after being selected No. 7 overall in 2014, so the first taste of failure has surely rattled his confidence a bit too. The Phillies are counting on him to be a key part of their resurgence, so getting it figured out should be a top priority.

Video: Phillies get a double play thanks to an illegal slide by Kevin Pillar

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The Blue Jays led the Phillies 4-0 and were threatening more runs with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third inning against Aaron Nola. Darwin Barney hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double play to shortstop Freddy Galvis, who flipped to second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez leaped to avoid an incoming Kevin Pillar, making a weak and late throw to first base. A run scored and Barney was safe at first base.

The Phillies challenged the call, however, and the ruling was overturned, giving the Phillies an inning-ending double play after all.

Here’s the slide:

Here’s another video with a better angle. And here’s a good screen capture:

pillarslide

Baseball’s new slide rule, Rule 6.01(j), a bona fide slide is defined as:

making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

One can make a tenuous claim that Pillar attempted to stay on the base. Pillar certainly curled his body up in an attempt to interfere with Hernandez.

Many will complain about baseball becoming wimpy with rules designed to protect the fielders. I, for one, think the sport is headed in the right direction when defenseless infielders don’t have to worry about 200-plus pounds of human flesh and bone speeding towards them in an attempt to prevent a double play. The less we have incidents like the ones that involved Ruben Tejada, Alex Avila, and Buster Posey, the better.