Reminder: today is Baseball Superiority Day

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The NFL starts today. I’m sure most of you are happy about that. But as the sports/media zeitgeist goes football crazy, I’m going to remind myself that (a) the Orioles are playing a home game in Baltimore tonight; and (b) the Ravens are opening on the road. Why? Because the NFL was unable to bully and whine to get its own way and have the Orioles move their game.

You’ll recall the scheduling conflict from last March. The Orioles had their schedule in place first and the NFL and its surrogates, claiming Divine Right to have its Super Bowl champ open at home on Thursdays, publicly moaned and complained that the Orioles should make way for the more popular and successful NFL.

Really, that was the argument. Remember this gem? And this? And this? The entire public debate over it was couched in the Orioles “doing the right thing” and moving their previously scheduled game. Not because it made more logistical sense for anyone. Not because some treasured and long-standing tradition was in peril (the home game on Thursday night for the Super Bowl champ is a relatively new invention). But because, dammit, the NFL deserved to have that date for their use more than baseball did. Because it’s the NFL.

Well, poo, you lost, football people. And for my part I have no problem feeling petty and nyah-nyah-nyah about it all. And I sort of hope that the O’s-White Sox game tonight goes 18 sloppy innings before a 1/4 capacity crowd, just for the yuks.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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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.