Jul 2, 2018

It Started With A Monkee And Ended With Knapp Time

Before I get into the game itself, I have to mention the giant can of Budweiser standing near the first base entrance.  The back of the can commemorates Brad Lidge and the 2008 World Champion Phillies team.  I can't believe it's already been ten years since that happened.

There was also a table set up to vote for your favorite Phillies for the All-Star Game with free gifts being given away by the team.  I don't think that you had to vote to get one of the gifts, but of course everybody is going to.  I picked this Aaron Nola poster, which was a free giveaway at the ballpark from Star Wars Night on May 23rd.

My birthday game started off with Micky Dolenz of The Monkees singing the national anthem.  He was the drummer and the lead vocalist for some of my favorite songs that the band recorded, including Last Train To Clarksville and I'm Not Your Stepping Stone.  He was also one of the co-stars of The Monkees television series.  I used to listen to their records when I was a kid, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Left hander Gio Gonzalez started the game for the Nationals.  We had cheesesteaks before the game and managed to find a couple of seats near the bullpen so that we could watch him warm up before the game.

Most of the time, I buy my tickets for the games I'm going to before the season starts, so I have no idea who the starting pitchers are going to be.  It's a pleasant surprise when I get to see a former member of the Phillies pitching against us.  While this game doesn't technically qualify, it comes pretty close.  Gio Gonzalez was one of the prospects that the Phillies received from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jim Thome in the winter before the 2006 season.  He quickly established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the Phillies system, but he was traded back to the Chicago after the 2006 season before he could make his Major League debut.  That was the deal that brought Freddy Garcia to Philadelphia in exchange for Gonzalez and fellow pitching prospect Gavin FloydGarcia was a 17 game winner in 2006 so it looked like we were getting an ace at the time, but he injured his shoulder in Philadelphia and only managed to earn a single win in 11 career starts as a Phillie.  Meanwhile, Gonzalez went on to become a two time All-Star who won 21 games for the Nationals in 2012.  He's leveled off a bit since then, but I still wish that the Phillies would have kept him.
The Philadelphia Inquirer  (July 2, 2018)

Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta started the game for the Philadelphia.  I was pretty happy when the Phillies managed to swoop in and sign him to a three year deal just before the start of the season.  He's only two years removed from one of the most dominant stretches that any pitcher has ever had in the history of baseball.  From June 21st 2015 to May 20th 2016, Arrieta had an unbelievable run of 29 starts in which he went 24-1 with two no-hitters and an ERA of 0.99.  His only loss during that span of time came against Cole Hamels when he no-hit the Chicago Cubs in his last start as a member of the Phillies.

Arrieta has gotten off to a slow but respectable start after missing pretty much all of Spring Training, and I don't expect him to recapture the magic of his 2015-2016 run, but he's only 32 years old and there's reason to believe that he can be the anchor of this rotation over the next three years.

I was happy to get to see a match-up between a former Phillies prospect going up against the veteran ace that had just joined the team a few months ago.  When the opening pitch was thrown, I had no idea that the starters would be just two of 18 pitchers that would take the mound that day.

Second Inning: Jake Arrieta pitching to Bryce Harper

Jake Arrieta had a good start overall, especially when you consider how deep the Nationals lineup is.  He allowed a bunt single to Adam Eaton to lead off the first inning, but he retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning on 11 pitches.  He walked Byrce Harper to lead off the second inning, but then immediately got Daniel Murphy to ground into a double play before striking out Mark Reynolds to end the inning, and he got out of the third inning without allowing a baserunner at all, so things were looking pretty good.  Unfortunately, Gio Gonzalez was just as effective for the Nationals by allowing only one Phillies baserunner in the first three innings, which was a single in the third inning by Jake Arrieta.

The Nationals scratched out the first run of the game in the top of the 4th inning.  Trea Turner led off the inning with a bunt single down the first base line, and he advanced to second on Jorge Alfaro's throwing error on the play.  Juan Soto grounded out to advance Turner to third, and Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Turner to put the Nationals up 1-0.

Washington struck again in the top of the 5th.  Daniel Murphy led off with a walk, followed by a Mark Reynolds single, and his advance to second base on a wild pitch.  Arrieta retired the next two batters, but then gave up an RBI single to Adam Eaton that put the Nationals up 3-0.

Fifth Inning: Gio Gonzalez pitching to Odubel Herrera

The Phillies struck back in the bottom half of the inning.  Jesmuel Valentin walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth.  Valentin, by the way, is the son of infielder Jose Valentin who played 15 seasons for the Brewers, White Sox, Dodgers and Mets before injuries led to his retirement after the 2008 season.  Jesmuel was a first round supplemental draft pick by the Dodgers in 2012 and was traded to the Phillies along with Victor Arano for pitcher Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) in August 2014.

Nick Williams hit a single with one out, and Carlos Santana was brought in to pinch hit for Jake Arrieta.  He drew a walk to load the bases for Cesar Hernandez, who walked with the bases loaded to score the Phillies first run.  Rhys Hoskins hit a sac fly to score the Phillies second run, and Odubel Herrera hit an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 3-3.

The 3-3 tie held for quite a while as both the Phillies and Nationals relief pitchers worked over seven innings of shutout baseball.  Both teams also burned through practically their entire bullpen.

Thirteenth Inning: Nick Pivetta pitching to Bryce Harper

The Phillies brought in Austin Davis to pitch the sixth inning, followed by Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Mark Leiter Jr, Adam Morgan, Jake Thompson and Victor Arano before finally bringing in starting pitcher Nick Pivetta, who ended up being the winning pitcher after working a scoreless 13th inning.  

On the other side, the Nationals brought in Brandon Kintzler, Matt Grace, Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Sean Dolittle, Shawn Kelley, and finally Justin Miller who took the loss.

Before I get into the way that the game ended, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that we got to see a member of the Phillies 2008 World Championship team, and the 8th inning setup man in the "Bridge To Lidge", Ryan Madson.  He pitched for the Phillies from 2004 to 2011.  He was negotiating to stay with the Phillies after he hit free agency in the winter before the 2012 season, but the team went with Jonathan Papelbon instead, and Madson ended up signing a one year deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  Unfortunately, he tore a ligament in his right elbow during Spring Training and missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery.  He attempted to return the following year with the Los Angeles Angels, but his recovery didn't go as planned and he retired at the end of the 2013 season after not having appeared in any regular season games with either the Reds or the Angels.

Madson came out of retirement in 2015 and had an incredible comeback season with the Kansas City Royals, finishing the season with a 2.13 ERA in over 63 innings of work.  The Royals finished the season as the AL Central Division Champions and went on to win the 2015 World Series, earning Madson his second ring.  He appeared in each round of the playoffs and was credited with a win in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, and Game 4 of the World Series against the New York Mets.  He signed a three year deal with the Oakland Athletics before the start of the 2016 season, but he was traded to the Nationals last July.

Ryan Madson only faced one batter yesterday.  The Nationals brought him in with two outs in the bottom of the 7th to face Rhys Hoskins, who he struck out to end the inning.  Now, don't get me wrong... nothing would have made me happier than to see Hoskins deposit one of his fastballs over the wall, but it was pretty cool to see Madson pitch effectively again at Citizens Bank Park.  I wouldn't have been feeling quite as nostalgic if his success cost the Phillies a win, but thanks to Andrew Knapp, that's a moot point.
Thirteenth Inning: Justin Miller pitching to Andrew Knapp

Justin Miller was the Nationals ninth pitcher of the game.  He was brought in to start the 12th inning and he gave up a hard hit single to Carlos Santana and walked Caesar Hernandez, but he managed to get out of the inning.  He wasn't so lucky in the 13th inning.  After he retired Odubel Herrera, Andrew Knapp was brought in to pinch hit for Nick Pivetta, and our backup catcher hit a walk-off home run to mercifully end a game that lasted for nearly four and a half hours with a Phillies victory.

With this win, the Phillies extended their lead over the Nationals in the NL East with a record of 45-37.  They remain three games behind the Atlanta Braves.  I wouldn't call us the favorites in the division, but this is the best that the Phillies have looked in a long time and I don't think that the wild card is out of the question.