A couple of the most notable pitcher playoff home runs ever came from Phillies

A couple of the most notable pitcher playoff home runs ever came from Phillies

As we wrap up a look back at the 2008 Phillies World Series run, it would be remiss not to note how Joe Blanton could go down in history. If the new proposal of a National League designated hitter becomes permanent, Blanton could be the last starting pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most notable home runs by a pitcher in baseball’s postseason. Fittingly, two of them are Phillies. 

Steve Carlton 
Game: 1978 NLCS Game 3 off Don Sutton

Carlton's three-run home run at Dodger Stadium gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead and it helped them capture their only win of the four-game series. Fun fact: Carlton hit just 13 homers in a little more than 1,700 at-bats over a 24-year career, but none bigger than the one in Los Angeles. 

Joe Blanton
Game: 2008 World Series Game 4 off Edwin Jackson 

This was not the most recent pitcher-belted homer in the postseason overall, but it was the most recent in a World Series. Sure, Blanton’s home run made it a 6-2 game in the fifth en route to an eight-run win for the Phillies. But being the last to do something is a fun distinction and one that Blanton could hold for years to come, especially as a starting pitcher. Yes, in a crazy 15-inning game, a pitcher may be used for an at-bat with a DH in play. But if the DH in the National League becomes a permanent reality, JoeB will likely be the last starting pitcher to knock one out of the park in the postseason. I also love Blanton’s mindset at the plate in that Game 4. “I just close my eyes and swing hard in case I make contact." Brilliant. 

Kerry Wood
Game: 2003 NLCS Game 7 off Mark Redman

This one was a doozy. Tensions were running high at Wrigley Field on this night. Not only was it the game after the “Bartman” incident. But the Cubs watched their 3-1 series lead over the Marlins collapse into a winner-take-all Game 7. The Cubs were trying to get to their first World Series since 1945. Wood did his best to give Chicago a chance when he knocked out a game-tying two-run homer the second inning, but it wasn’t enough. In keeping with the trend for that series (and for the 100+ years of their curse), the Cubs eventually blew a 5-3 lead to fall to the Marlins. 

Jake Arrieta 
Game: 2016 NLDS Game 3 off Madison Bumgarner

As cursed as the Cubs were in 2003, they were fortunate in 2016. Everything seemed to go their way, eventually shaking off that 108-year World Series drought. Current Phillie, Jake Arrieta came through in Game 3 with a three-run home run off one of the best postseason pitchers ever. Sure, the Giants won this game in extras, but the Cubs got the last laugh and championship rings in the end. Fun fact: Just days before Arrieta, pitcher Travis Wood belted a home run of his own in Game 2. When you’re hot, you’re hot and the Cubs certainly were in 2016. 

Dave McNally and Bob Gibson

I grouped these two players together because they have the great distinction of being the only two pitchers to hit home runs in the postseason twice. And they both did it in the World Series, in back to back years. McNally, pitching for the Orioles, belted a homer in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series and hit one again in the 1970 World Series in Game 3. Gibson hit his homers for the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1967 World Series and then did it the following year, Game 4 of the 1968 World Series. And they both won one World Series and lost one. 

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Who makes next start for Phillies: Spencer Howard or Vince Velasquez? Joe Girardi weighs in

Who makes next start for Phillies: Spencer Howard or Vince Velasquez? Joe Girardi weighs in

Phillies fans have been clamoring for Spencer Howard for a little while now. They've heard about the velocity, the swing-and-miss slider, the knee-buckling curveball, the diving changeup, the beyond-his-years command. The organization has been just as excited.

With a couple of doubleheaders this week, you could smell Howard's debut. It became apparent that the Phils would need a sixth starter and who better than Howard, the top pitching prospect in the organization who was already on the doorstep of the majors and who probably would have been here on opening day if not for service time considerations.

This was a big day for the Phillies. Two games against your division rival, the NL East favorite. Sweep the doubleheader and you win the series against the Braves. Split and you have a chance to win it Monday night.

Instead, the Phillies were outscored 13-2 in a pair of losses. They hit .146 on the day, went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and the bullpen allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 5⅓ innings.

Still, there was excitement in the air because of Howard's long-awaited debut, which came Sunday afternoon in Game 2. After a couple of scoreless innings, the Braves welcomed Howard to the majors. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. took him deep, and Howard allowed four runs over 4⅔ innings. The Phillies lost the game 8-0, a few hours after falling to the Braves 5-2.

There are far greater sins than being beaten by two of baseball's best. Given the circumstances — Howard hadn't pitched against another actual team in months and his own throwing schedule was changed this week to accommodate the Sunday start — it wasn't that bad. (The Phillies' offense was much worse.)

"Spencer, for his first start, I thought he did pretty good," manager Joe Girardi said. "He was able to throw strikes. The first two guys get on (in the first inning) and he's able to not give up a run. He didn't fall apart, which sometimes it's tough to slow a young person's mind down when it's their first start or first year. I thought he handled it pretty well."

Howard did not feel sharp. He added that he'd rather get hit on a day like today than on a day when he does feel sharp because that, after all, could be symbolic of a larger issue than being rusty and making a few mistakes against a strong lineup like the Braves.

"I wouldn't say I felt sharp," the 24-year-old rookie said. "Just a little out of sync with mechanics. Left a lot of balls over the plate and mistakes get hit in the big leagues. Overall, it was a decent day, awesome to compete again."

It was obviously strange for Howard to debut with no fans or family members in the stands. Not how a little kid dreams about making his first start in The Show. Howard dreamt of pitching a shutout in his first start in front of mom and dad. 

But it's 2020, so c'est la vie.

"The cardboard cutouts actually made a difference, surprisingly," Howard said. "Coming back in the summer camp when it was just the blue bleachers and then seeing the cardboard with the fan noises, it was OK actually. I wish all my friends could be here but I know they're all watching and that's all that matters."

The question now becomes: Who makes the next start five days from now? Will it be Vince Velasquez, who allowed one run in four innings in Game 1 Sunday, or Howard?

"Right now, my plans are for Vinny to make that start," Girardi said. "I have not talked to anyone. We're going on a five-man rotation, Spencer came up and threw the second part of a doubleheader. I'll sit down and talk to our coaches and (GM Matt Klentak and assistant GM Ned Rice) and we'll make a decision.

"We didn't come into today and say we were going to make a change in the rotation. We didn't come out and say that. We said we're going to evaluate every day what's best for our team."

It is possible the Phillies, with such a bad bullpen, could make Howard a multi-inning reliever. They wouldn't use him as a closer but as a pitcher capable of picking up six, maybe even nine outs as a reliever when the situation calls for it. Long-term, Howard will be a starter. But given the struggles and lack of plus stuff in the Phillies' bullpen, Howard could make a big impact as a multi-inning reliever in a short season if the Phillies go that route.

It seems unlikely, if only because the Phillies still have five more doubleheaders and will need a sixth starter again. But it's on the table. Most everything is on the table until the Phillies find out a formula for a bullpen that has an 8.10 ERA with 44 hits allowed in 30 innings.

"It's something that we've talked about," Girardi said. "It's something we will continue to talk about. What we do and how we have the best makeup of a pitching staff."

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Phillies go hitless with runners in scoring position and lose both games of doubleheader to Braves

Phillies go hitless with runners in scoring position and lose both games of doubleheader to Braves

Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Braves spoiled the MLB debut of Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard on what was also a dismal day for the Phils' bats.

Freeman and Acuña each homered to the opposite field off of Howard, going 5 for 6 with those two jacks and a triple as the Braves won both games of Sunday's doubleheader by scores of 5-2 and 8-0.

The Phillies had just seven hits in 14 innings. They went 7 for 48 in the doubleheader, a .146 batting average.

Their best scoring chance in Game 2 came in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs for Bryce Harper, who flied out to shallow center.

The Phillies are 4-6. The Braves are 11-6.

More specifics here on Howard's outing.

No knocks when it counts

The Phillies went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in the two games Sunday. They have hit .194 with RISP this season.

Braves' best players woke up

To win this series, the Phillies needed Freeman and Acuña to stay cold for just a few more days. They entered Sunday hitting a combined .207. Freeman went 6 for 8 in the doubleheader with a double, triple and homer. Acuña went 5 for 8 with three homers. Combined, that's 11 for 16 with four homers, a double, triple and eight RBI. Good grief.

At least Hoskins built a little confidence

Rhys Hoskins, who entered the second game Sunday hitting .111 (3 for 27), went 2 for 2 with a double and an HBP. He's hitting .172, though with a .429 on-base percentage. Every little thing counts right now for Hoskins, who threw his arms up in the air to thank the Baseball Gods after he finally picked up that first hit Sunday. 

Up next

Aaron Nola (0-1, 3.97) starts the series finale Monday night at 6:05 against Braves lefty Sean Newcomb (0-1, 6.57).

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