After the clubhouse I made it out to the field and scoped the scene:
The Phillies take a much more casual approach to stretching than the circle-em-up Pirates do.
At the risk of best-shape-of-his-life cliches, I really can’t impress upon you just how good Ryan Howard looks. He has absolutely transformed himself over the past couple of years.
I hadn’t noticed catchers warming up from the mound anywhere else, but both of the catchers who were suited up for Philly on Saturday did. Also: earlier, when the position players were warming up, Shane Victorino got down in a catcher’s crouch and Howard fired in a couple of full windup pitches to him. Worth noting that the pitches from both catchers and Howard were harder and more accurate than the pitches from the best dude most of you faced in high school.
I don’t think I’ve ever paid close enough attention to notice if this is common or not, but I kind of like the two-row dugout.
Bright House is a new stadium — opened in 2004 — and has a lot of amenities that aren’t typical in the Grapefruit League. One of them is a cool kids’ area, complete with a playground, a special kids’ snack bar and, of course, a Phanatic statue for photo opportunities and, for the more intrepid youngins, climbing on.
This practice field sits directly behind the stadium. There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that it was a prototype designed to extend Pat Burrell’s usefulness as a defensive player. I mean, that would be silly. He couldn’t cover a left field that large.
The Twins were in town, and Jim Thome made his way out to the field to say hello during Phillies’ BP. Everyone who came near him, be it players, coaches or media, either hugged him or gave him a fist bump. Everyone loves Jim Thome. I’ve been following his career since he broke in with the Tribe, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing about the guy.
You think the City of Clearwater wasn’t cognizant that 10,000 Philly fans were on the premises? They had a police command station set up right outside the ballpark. They know who they’re dealing with.
The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.
In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.
On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.
Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.