Admit it: you’d rather read this stuff than watch the Lions or the Cowboys today, right? I mean, they’re awful.
Anyway: that for which teams and their fans should give thanks on this most gluttonous of days:
Philadelphia Phillies: Finding the Blue Jays and the Astros when they were in a transition period. Really, if things didn’t break just right in those cases, the Phillies could be entering this winter with Cliff Lee leaving via free agency and a rotation full of Blantons and Kendricks and stuff. Ick.
Atlanta Braves: Jeff Loria’s seeming aversion to competitive baseball. If the Marlins cared, they could have done a few relatively minor things over the past couple of years to have put them in a better position to have finished ahead of the Braves. But they didn’t. If the Marlins cared, the Braves wouldn’t have their new manager or their new second baseman, each of whom they acquired basically painlessly. But they didn’t. Thanks Feesh!
Florida Marlins: This is a stretch, because really, there’s nothing great about being a Marlins fan at the moment, but let’s try this: thanks to Jeff Loria for bringing back Edwin Rodriguez to manage on a one year contract next year. Yes, it will almost certainly lead to an unceremonious and likely unfair firing of Rodriguez next winter, but it will likely be to bring in Loria man-crush Ozzie Guillen, who wants desperately to manage in Florida. I’m not sure that will make the baseball any better because Loria will still be a skinflint, but Guillen is great fun, ain’t he?
New York Mets: Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. There is finally an adult in charge.
Washington Nationals: The anticipation. Remember all that fun you had waiting for Stephen Strasburg to make the team? Now you can do it again with Bryce Harper! And once he’s up and established, you can wait for Strasburg to come back! And if Harper figures out a way to injure himself, the process can start all over again. Really, we’re one bad slip on a wet sidewalk away from the Nats being in the process of waiting for superstars until both superstars are old enough to be thinking about how to get the hell out of Washington.
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.