Phillies

This win as wild as it gets for Phillies ... with tons of questions, too

This win as wild as it gets for Phillies ... with tons of questions, too

BOX SCORE

No doubt, there will be a lot of Tuesday morning quarterbacking after this one.

And arguments can certainly be made that the Phillies need a legitimate ninth-inning closer — did you notice that the Washington Nationals traded for a good one in Kelvin Herrera on Monday? — and that maybe it’s simply time to give Seranthony Dominguez a sustained look there.

But if you think about it, the bullpen really wasn’t the problem Monday night. Sure, Adam Morgan and Jake Thompson gave up big hits, but that was after the game should have been over, after the Phillies should have already been in the clubhouse with the music blaring, the lights flashing and the fog machine turning the room into something that resembles the inside of Jeff Spicoli’s VW bus.

What was looking like a terrible, inexcusable loss for the Phillies turned into a dramatic, 6-5, walk-off win over the St. Louis Cardinals when Aaron Altherr drilled a two-run double to left with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning (see first take).

Altherr’s hit got a lot of people off the hook. The offense scored four runs in the first inning then got nothing, and just two hits, before the extra inning. Morgan, who gave up a game-tying base hit in the ninth, and Thompson, who gave up a go-ahead homer in the 10th, benefitted from Altherr’s hit.

But catcher Andrew Knapp was the big beneficiary of Altherr’s clutchness.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, runners on second and third, the Phillies up, 4-2, and Yairo Munoz at the plate, Knapp called for a 1-2 slider from Victor Arano. The pitch was effective. It bounced in the dirt in front of the plate and Munoz swung. Third out. Game over.

Not so quick.

Knapp did not stay down on the ball in the dirt and it passed between his legs for a wild pitch. A run scored and Munoz reached first base safely, keeping the game alive for Kolten Wong to tie it against Morgan and the Cardinals to take the lead on a homer by Tommy Pham against Thompson in the 10th.

“I’ve got to make that play,” Knapp said afterward. “I’ve got to block it. I’ve blocked that pitch a million times. This one just got under my glove. It was a little shorter than I thought it was going to be. I just misplayed it.”

In the dugout, manager Gabe Kapler looked down for a second after Munoz’s swing.

"I thought the game was over,” he said. “But I think that's the natural reaction. I think that's a play that Knappy probably makes 99 out of 100 times. Kind of a fluky thing that happened there and I think if you ask Knappy, he knows he can catch that ball."

If the ball is blocked and the out recorded at first base, Nick Pivetta gets a much-deserved win on a night when he struck out a career-high 13 in 7 1/3 innings. In all, Phillies pitching registered 19 strikeouts, 18 in the first nine innings. Edubray Ramos pitched out of trouble in the eighth and Arano survived a couple of hits and actually had the game over until it wasn’t in the ninth.

“Ramos and Arano, those guys were awesome,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, Kapler’s favorite bullpen weapon, was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches the previous two games.

After the game, Kapler was asked the daily questions about the way he uses his bullpen. In short, he believes he has multiple pitchers who can get high-leverage outs and he praised Ramos and Arano for doing that Monday night. He did not rule out one day using Dominquez as his go-to ninth-inning guy, but did qualify that by saying matchups would be taken into account.

So, basically, you’ll know who is pitching the ninth inning when the bullpen door swings open and Kapler’s choice of the moment runs to the mound.

The Phillies are 38-32 and an NL-best 23-12 at home. They have not won a series against the Cardinals since 2014. They have two games to do it after a win turned into a loss and back into a win again Monday night.

More on the Phillies

Phillies outfielder Jay Bruce honors a friend on his back and in his heart

Phillies outfielder Jay Bruce honors a friend on his back and in his heart

CLEARWATER, Fla. – As kids, they rode their bikes to each other’s houses. They played Little League and high school ball together.

As adults, they hunted and fished together, always washing it down with a cold beer and a few laughs.

Jay Bruce and Justin Hoose were boys, as the saying goes.

“We started playing together in tee ball,” Bruce said. “And we were always close. I had my first sleepover at his house. Toothpaste in the ear, shaving cream, you name it, we did it. He was the first person I ever ding-dong-ditched with. 

“We did everything together. And regardless of whether you wanted to have fun or wanted to laugh or wanted to have a good time, when he came around you were going to do all of those things.”

The phone call came in December when Bruce was in Idaho picking up a hunting dog. Back home in Beaumont, Texas, his lifelong friend Justin had been hospitalized with a sudden and serious illness. A few days later, he was gone, way too young at the age of 32.

“It floored me,” Bruce said. “We have a tight group of friends from high school and it floored all of us. It still stings. I still can’t believe it. It’s something no one would have imagined.

“I always believed we’d one day be old men talking (crap) on each other and then …

“It’s really made me understand and realize that life is precious and can be taken from you so quickly and to just love the people you’re close with.”

Justin loved the Dallas Cowboys so much that friends were encouraged to wear Cowboys’ colors to his memorial service. A few years ago, Bruce arranged for sideline passes at a Cowboys game.

“We had a blast,” he said.

In 12 seasons as a major league outfielder, Bruce has played in Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Seattle and Philadelphia. Justin supported his friend, and rooted like crazy for him, in every one of these towns.

So, as Bruce prepared for spring training this year, he decided to do something for the old friend that supported him so much. He phoned Phillies equipment man Phil Sheridan and asked if he could change his number from 23 to 9. That was the number Justin wore when they were teammates on the baseball team at West Brook High School in Beaumont.

Changing numbers in the big leagues is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it requires league approval. Merchandisers often object because they have existing stock with the player’s number already on it. But everything lined up favorably for Bruce because he’d only been a Phillie for a few months after being traded from Seattle last season.

“I got here in June so there’s not a lot of stuff out there,” he said. “But if there was merchandise out there, I would have been willing to buy it to do this.”

There aren’t many Bruce jerseys with No. 9 on them in the merchandise stores yet. But there is another one out there. Before he left for spring training, Bruce, a husband and father of two young sons, made sure to order one for Joseph Hoose, the 10-year-son of his old pal Justin.

Bruce took batting practice with his new number on his back Tuesday and felt as if his old friend was looking down on him.

“Justin was special,” Jay Bruce said through misty eyes. “He was an incredible person. Wearing this number doesn’t fully honor who he was a person, but it brings a little bit of him with me.”

Subscribe and rate Phillies Talk:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

Which of these Phillies batting orders do you like better?

Which of these Phillies batting orders do you like better?

The Phillies have 32 spring training games to figure out which infield alignment makes the most sense, who the opening day centerfielder will be and how the batting order shakes out. 

On yesterday’s Phillies Talk podcast, Ricky Bottalico and I discussed how much batting order flexibility the addition of Didi Gregorius gives Joe Girardi. Gregorius can really bat anywhere between first and fifth. 

This was Ricky’s batting order:

  1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
  3. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
  4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto, C
  6. Jean Segura, 2B
  7. Scott Kingery, 3B
  8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

And here was mine:

  1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  2. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
  3. J.T. Realmuto, C
  4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  5. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
  6. Jean Segura, 2B
  7. Scott Kingery, 3B
  8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

We will have to wait and see how much the new three-batter rule for relievers affects lineup construction, if at all. It could prompt managers to focus more on splitting up their lefties, which was the idea behind my splitting up Harper and Didi. 

Another option the Phils could go with is McCutchen and Segura at the top, where they were early last season. Forgotten in the totality of Segura’s disappointing first season as a Phillie is that he was hitting .330 in mid-May and his production didn’t crater until right around the time he didn’t hustle out the ball in San Diego, leading to the rundown in which McCutchen tore his ACL. Segura spoke this week about how much that ordeal weighed on him last summer. 

What’s your ideal Phillies batting order?

Subscribe and rate Phillies Talk:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies