Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies

Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies


DENVER — When Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland took the mound in the ninth Sunday, it seemed he was going to simply add to the Phillies’ misfortune.

They had just had a runner thrown out at home in the eighth. And Charlie Blackmon’s go-ahead, two-out double in the seventh off Aaron Nola gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead after a blatantly bad ball-strike call went against Nola that changed the nature of the at-bat.

So on came Holland for the ninth, the best closer in the majors this year. He had converted 34 of 35 save opportunities and took the mound with a 1.56 ERA (40⅓ innings, seven earned runs) and 18 walks, 53 strikeouts, 23 hits allowed and opponents batting a mere .168 against him.

Those gaudy numbers largely explain why the Rockies were 59-0 when leading after eight innings, the longest such streak to start a season in franchise history.

Odubel Herrera opened the ninth with a single to short center, a hit on an 0-2 slider that he hustled into a double.

“He’s been criticized for lack of hustle,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after the Phillies' 3-2 win (see Instant Replay). “But for him to take the extra base was outstanding and good to see.”

Herrera moved to third on a single by Maikel Franco, whose homer in the second tied the game at one. Hyun Soo Kim hit a grounder to shortstop Trevor Story, who was playing back and threw out Herrera at the plate. Herrera hesitated before heading home.

“First and third, you’re on third base, you have to go,” Mackanin said. "Because if they get a double play, you don’t want to be standing at third with two outs. He hesitated for the simple reason that he didn’t know if the pitcher was going to catch it.”

Cameron Rupp, who had been easily thrown out in the eighth trying to score from first on pinch hitter Andres Blanco’s double that rattled around the left-field corner, then drove Holland’s first-pitch slider into the gap in left-center, scoring Franco and Kim.

“It was a quick at-bat,” Rupp said. “He hung a slider, left it out over the plate, I drove it to the gap.”

Holland said he had a chance at 0-2 on Herrera “to throw a couple pitches the guy couldn’t put the bat on.” Instead, Holland threw what he termed “a pretty good pitch” that Herrera put in play to begin the rally.

“But the two-run double was a pitch where I thought he was looking to swing early in the count,” Holland said. “My thought was to throw a borderline pitch and see if he would chase. It was a little too good.”

The Rockies put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth, but closer Hector Neris got Blackmon to ground to first.

Blackmon’s two-out double in the seventh gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead against Nola, who saw a certain 0-2 count vanish. With the count 0-1 on Blackmon, pinch hitter Raimel Tapia, who had walked, stole second base. Before the pitch, Blackmon stepped out of the batter's box to call time, which home plate umpire Carlos Torres didn’t grant.

The pitch to Tapia was down the middle, but Torres called it a ball, meaning Nola was 1-1 rather than 0-2 on Blackmon much to the disbelief of catcher Rupp.

“After I threw the ball, and I looked at the scoreboard and it said 1-1,” Rupp said. “I said, ‘You called that a ball?’

“He goes, ‘Yeah.’

“I said, ‘How, it was right down the middle?’ I guess when I came up to throw, I blocked his vision.”

With the count 3-1 to Blackmon, Nola threw a changeup that Blackmon drove into the gap in left-center. And then Rupp was thrown out at home in the eighth. And then Herrera was thrown out at home in the ninth against the vaunted Holland.

After five straight losses on their current trip, the Phillies seemed to be staring at yet another defeat, which was going to be followed by a glum flight to Atlanta where they will be off before playing Tuesday.

“It’s nice to salvage a win out of this series,” Mackanin said. “But it’s even nicer winning on a getaway day with an off day the next day, so you got more time to savor it.”

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

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Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition


FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

DUNEDIN, Fla. – It’s not hard to find Charlie Manuel in spring training. In late mornings, he’s perched behind the batting cage watching Phillies hitters take their swings. During the game, he’s on the top step of the dugout, taking it all in and offering advice where needed.

Manuel didn’t stay for the game Saturday. He watched batting practice, showered and drove out of the parking lot 30 minutes before the first pitch.

Manuel, you see, had a promise to keep.

Back in November, Manuel was one of nine people to speak at Roy Halladay’s memorial service at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring training home. Manuel stood at a podium near the very mound that Halladay trained on and spoke from the heart about what an honor it was to manage such a great talent and competitor. Manuel had jotted his words down on a paper, but he didn’t stick completely to his script that day. At one point, he looked down at Halladay’s two grieving sons, Braden and Ryan, and told them he’d be keeping tabs on their progress as young ballplayers. Manuel promised to attend their games. And that’s just what he did Saturday afternoon.

Braden Halladay, a lanky 17-year-old right-hander who bears a striking resemblance to his dad, on and off the mound, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team’s spring training roster. He was born in Toronto when his dad played for the Blue Jays, hence his eligibility to pitch for Canada.

On Saturday, Braden pitched a scoreless eighth inning against a Jays’ split-squad team on the very Dunedin Stadium mound where his dad began his career.

“I’m so glad I came over,” Manuel said after Braden’s perfect inning of work. “He did good. I’m glad he got ‘em out.”

This wasn’t the first time Manuel had seen Braden pitch. Braden pitches for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, where he is a junior. Manuel watched him pitch five shutout innings earlier in the week. And on Wednesday night, Manuel attended young brother Ryan’s practice in Clearwater.

Manuel has a warm spot for the boys for a lot of reasons. Obviously, there was the respect he had for their dad. “When I think of Roy, I think of the perfect game and playoff no-hitter first,” Manuel said. “Right after that, I think of his work ethic. It was the best I’ve ever seen.” 

But Manuel’s affection for the boys goes beyond the respect he had for their dad. Manuel was 18, the oldest son in a family of 11 children, when he lost his dad.

“I feel for those boys,” Manuel said. “I know what they’re going through and it isn’t easy. Not easy at all.”

It takes a lot of love to get through a tragedy like the one the Halladay family has gone through. The boys get it from their mom, Brandy, who is at all of their games. And they get it from people like Charlie Manuel.

Saturday’s first pitch at Dunedin Stadium, just a few miles from the Phillies’ ballpark, was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Manuel wanted to hustle over so he could wish Braden luck before the game. Manuel made his way down to the bullpen area and spotted one of his former Phillies players, Pete Orr, who is a coach with the Canadian team. Orr called over to Braden. A huge smile crossed the kid’s face when he saw Manuel. He sprinted over and gave Manuel a hug. Orr, who grew up near Toronto, slapped Braden on the back of his Team Canada jersey and said, “He looks good in red and white.”

He sure did.

Braden chatted with Manuel for a minute or two, and Manuel wished him luck. A reporter from Philadelphia asked Braden what it felt like to have Manuel keep tabs on his baseball career.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Braden said with a big smile. “It means a lot to me.”

The reporter wished him luck and told him that all of Philadelphia was rooting for him.

“I appreciate that,” the young pitcher said before trotting off to join his teammates.

Braden Halladay is 6-3 and 150 pounds. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team down, 11-3, at first to a smattering of applause. That grew into a big, beautiful round of applause after the PA man announced his name and everyone in the crowd realized the magnitude of the moment. Braden knelt behind the mound and wrote his dad’s initials in the dirt before delivering his first pitch. His pitching delivery is smooth and fundamentally pure.

“You can tell Roy worked with him,” Manuel said.

Braden mixed his pitches nicely in getting two pop-ups and a ground ball. He hit 83 mph on the stadium radar gun. A few months ago, Braden announced that he had committed to Penn State. Manuel sees a lot of promise in the kid.

“When he’s 21, he’ll pitch at 205 pounds,” Manuel said. “He’ll get stronger. You watch, he’s got a chance to be real good. He has a good, quick arm, command of the ball and mechanics.”

Where the game will eventually take Braden Halladay is a story for another day. Back in November, he sat in the middle of a baseball field and listened to people eulogize his dad. It was an excruciatingly difficult experience and the look on his face that day said as much.

So on Saturday, it was just great to see Braden Halladay back on a baseball field with a smile on his face. And it was great to see Charlie Manuel there, taking it all in, just as he had promised.