Last night was my second of two in-person games at the local ballpark in Philadelphia. The first one, as you'll recall, didn't go too well for my hometown boys in red. But this one, I thought, could be different. For one thing, the game was against the struggling, depleted Chicago Cubs, and in the midst of a pretty strong stretch for the team.
On the other hand, as was confirmed before the game, the Phillies had designated tonight a bullpen game, meaning we wouldn't be getting Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson or Ranger Suarez. We would be getting Cam Bedrosian, and eventually, Matt Moore. While it was a step up from Vince Velasquez, who is apparently not even good enough for the Padres, it was still...an unsettling decision. I was worried we'd blow this one as well, and I was not expecting much. Besides, I got the tickets to go with a friend of mine, the goal was to have a good time and maybe, potentially, get a decent game in. I didn't care too much about the outcome, especially knowing this team.
So we watched as the Phillies spent a few innings being their usual pathetic selves. The initial coolness of the Phils wearing throwback blues and starting a Bedrosian, which is very cool, immediately wore off when after Bedrosian left, Matt Moore did his usual thing and HPD's a run in, followed by another score on a bloop single. From there, the infield joined in on the fun, with a blooper by Brad Miller costing another few runs, and a homer by Matt Duffy, off of otherwise-great-this-year J.D. Hammer, making the game 7-0 in the third.
Seven runs in an inning, against the Phillies bullpen. Sounds about right.
Around this time, as I was heading to the restroom, I overheard a conversation between an all-too-thrilled Cubs fan and a stadium attendant on break. The attendant was outraged and confused by the Cubs' big inning, and directed that sentiment, playfully, towards the fan. The Cubs fan replied "And we're terrible, too. I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often."
Well...said harvest wasn't about to last especially long. Because it was the Phillies' turn to have a 7-run inning.
The first strike was a double that nearly made it over the fence, but stuck onto the landing and back onto the field, robbing Bryce Harper of a home run. But we would take a double. As would Andrew McCutchen, the guy I'd come here to see, who started the party with an RBI double. Then a series of small-ball moves, including singles, fielder's choices, walks and excellent base running, kept raining down on Kyle Hendricks, and tied the game in the fourth.
After that, it was only a matter of whose bullpen was worse. The Phillies, whose bullpen routinely falls apart despite all effort not to, or the Cubs, who lost everyone except for Rex Brothers and had several relievers with ERAs over 5.
If you answered the Cubs, congratulations.
First Harper had an RBI double, then Manuel Rodriguez gave up an RBI single to Didi Gregorius, whose bat definitely seemed to be back tonight. After Harper's massive hit, there were a few MVP chants in the ground. They would only grow throughout the night.
A Willson Contreras home run would cut the score to 10-8, so it was still possible for the Cubs to reach us if the bullpen screwed it up enough. We needed security.
Against Tommy Nance, we got some. First Odubel Herrera knocked another RBI double in, scoring 2 more runs. But Bryce Harper got up, and at the moment that my friend Marc came back with soft serve, LAUNCHED a homer into centerfield, scoring 3 more runs, making the stadium go absolutely wild, and giving us the celebration we deserved after his homer was taken away earlier. The chants of 'M-V-3' went even louder, and even longer. Harper was now hitting .315, with his OPS back over 1, and any thought of another player winning MVP was obliterated. This was Bryce Harper's season, and this was Bryce Harper's game. The moment he had been looking for since joining this team had arrived, and the entire stadium was behind him. It was beautiful.
We only needed one more run from Mean Jean Segura, but the Phillies bullpen actually held things together otherwise. Bailey Falter and Adonis Medina were pretty excellent that night, giving us something unheard of by a Phillies bullpen- 3 scoreless innings. The ninth was a wash, the game was a 17-8 blowout, and we were outta there.
For a game that I wasn't expecting to be a competition at all, or even more than 5 runs, to be a 17-8 triumph for my Phillies, that was everything I'd wanted. It was a hell of a night, a hell of a game, and a hell of a wrap on my stadium adventures for the year. Even if the Phillies don't make the playoffs, which is very likely, this'll be a great Phils memory to go out on.
Coming Tonight: Some poor schmo who has to play on the Angels without Mike Trout.