Aug 30, 2023

The Historic Home Run Pace Continues

Dad and I got tickets for this game in exchange for the June 7th game against the Tigers that was postponed due to poor air quality as a result of the Canadian wildfires.  It turned out to be a good news and bad news situation.  It was a bummer to miss out on seeing future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in his final season, and I'm going to have to wait a bit longer to check the Tigers off of my "teams that I haven't seen in person" list.  On the bright side, we got to see a player who is in the middle of what is arguably the greatest season ever played by anyone in the history of the sport, Shohei Ohtani.  But before I get into what took place on the field on Monday night, I've got to take a moment to write about a delicious chicken sandwich.

Colbie's Southern Kissed Chicken opened their Citizens Bank Park location at the beginning of last season.  The opening got a lot of attention because Ryan Howard is one of the restaurant's owners, and because they serve a chicken sandwich named after the 2008 World Series Champion first baseman.  It's called The Big Piece.

The Big Piece is a sandwich made up of a large piece of southern fried chicken with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, pickles, and garlic aioli served on a sweet Hawaiian bun.  It was both delicious and filling and I highly recommend them!

We saw the Phillies play the Angels last season before the trade deadline.  It was on June 5th and it's the best game that I've ever seen in person.  The Phillies were down 6-2 in the bottom of the 8th, but Bryce Harper hit a grand slam to tie the game.  The Angels took a one run lead in the top of the 9th, but the Phillies bounced back again to win the game when Bryson Stott hit a walk-off three run homer for the win.

These teams completed a couple of trades with each other a little less than two months later.  The Phillies traded former #1 overall draft pick Mickey Moniak to the Angels for Noah Syndergaard.  It worked out in the short term because they needed some help in the rotation and Thor played a role in helping the 2022 Phillies win the pennant.  However, I've always liked Moniak and he's been having a good season, so I think that the Angels came out ahead in that deal.

The other trade worked out extremely well for the Phillies, both in the short and long term.  They acquired center fielder Brandon Marsh for top catching prospect Logan O'HoppeO'Hoppe may develop into an excellent catcher, but he was blocked by JT Realmuto in Philadelphia, and Marsh wasted no time in becoming a keystone of this team.  He won't hit free agency until after 2027 and he's having a hell of a season and is one of the reasons why this team has gone on the incredible stretch that they've been on since June.

With Mike Trout on the injured list, we got to see both Moniak and O'Hoppe in Monday night's game, and one other former member of the Phillies who once again came out of the bullpen to pitch against his former team.  We also got to see Shohei Ohtani, who is having an other-worldly season, and a rookie named Trey Cabbage who made his MLB last month and whose name resulted in no fewer than a half dozen puns throughout the game between my dad and I.

Monday night's game was between Taijuan Walker, who the Phillies signed this past winter to a four year deal, and Lucas Giolito, who the Angels just acquired at the trade deadline from the White Sox.  The Angels made a bold decision to acquire talent at the end of July to push for a playoff spot in what will probably be Shohei Ohtani's last season in Anaheim.  That decision to buy instead of sell hasn't worked out well for the Angels, but I'll talk more about that later.

This was a pretty even matchup of starting pitchers.  Giolito was an All-Star in 2019 and has a no-hitter under his belt, and he comes from a pretty interesting family.  His mother is actress Lindsay Frost, who was the female lead in Dead Heat which we saw at Zombiefest IX at the Mahoning earlier this season, and his uncle is Mark Frost, who was the co-creator of Twin PeaksWalker may not have any relatives in Hollywood, but he entered this game with a record of 13-5 and is among the league leaders in wins this season.

There was nothing as dramatic as the game tying grand slam and walk-off home run that we got to see last season, but this was an awesome game that was close and competitive.  

Things weren't looking too good for Taijuan Walker in the first inning.  He started off the game by plunking Nolan Schanuel and giving up a single to Shohei Ohtani to put runners on first and second with no outs.  He managed to record two quick outs, but Luis Rengifo hit an RBI single to give the Angels an early lead.  This brought our old friend Mickey Moniak up to bat.  He bunted and hustled his ass to first base and was called out, but the call was challenged and overturned which brought our other old friend, Logan O'Hoppe up to bat with the bases loaded.  Thankfully, he grounded out to end the inning and limit the damage to one run.

Lucas Giolito looked a lot sharper than Walker in the first inning, but thanks to a solo home run off the bat of Trea Turner, the results were the same, and the Phillies and Angels entered the second inning tied at 1-1.  Turner's home run was his 400th extra base hit of his career.

Things settled down until the top of the fourth inning.  Walker retired Logan O'Hoppe and Trey Cabbage pretty quickly, but he then gave up a two out walk to Randal Grichuk followed by a double by Nolan Schanuel.  Shohei Ohtani then walked to load the bases which brought second baseman Brandon Drury to the plate.  He hit a single to center field which scored two runs to give the Angels a 3-1 lead before Mike Moustakas grounded out to end the inning.

Photo Source: Phillies Instagram

Once again, the Phillies wasted no time in erasing the Angels lead.  Trea Turner walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth.  That brought Bryce Harper up to the plate who smacked a two run homer to once again tie the game.  It was Harper's 298th career home run.  In the weeks leading to this game, I thought that there was an outside chance that we'd get to see his 300th career home run.  It turns out that we were two days early.  He hit #300 earlier today in the final game of the series against the Angels.  He's just the fifth player in franchise history to hit his 300th home run in a Phillies uniform.

Sunsets at Citizens Bank Park can be incredible.  I wasn't able to get the whole ballpark in a single photo from our seats, so this doesn't at all do justice to how pretty the ballpark looks at this time of day.  The red in the sky pops a lot better in the background of the photos that the Phillies posted on Instagram of Harper's 298th home run.

Jake Cave singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth.  Kyle Schwarber, who entered this game with 36 home runs and 36 singles this season, struck out.  This brought Trea Turner to the plate, who hit his second home run of the night to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.

Turner has been on fire after a slow start to the season.  In his first 107 games as a member of the Phillies, he was batting .235 with 10 home runs and  .657 OPS.  Fans in Philly gave him a standing ovation on August 4th to show our new shortstop that we've got his back and we're confident that he'd bounce back.  Since that day, he's batting .359 with 8 home runs and a 1.122 OPS, and he's currently riding a 19 game hitting streak at Citizens Bank Park, which is the longest single season home hitting streak by a member of the Phillies since Placido Polanco 12 years ago.

The game was turned over to the bullpen in the sixth inning.  Matt Strahm came in to relieve Taijuan Walker in the top of the inning, and former Phillie Aaron Loup came in to relieve Lucas Giolito in the bottom half of the inning.  Both pitchers got out of the sixth inning cleanly, but Strahm ran into a little trouble in the seventh.  Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo singled, which brought Mickey Moniak to the plate with one out and runners on the corners.  He smacked an RBI single to left center, which knocked Strahm out of the game.  He was replaced by Jeff Hoffman, who retired Logan O'Hoppe and pinch hitter Hunter Renfroe to end the inning with the Phillies still ahead 5-4.

Gregory Soto pitched a clean top of the eighth, and the Phillies added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.  Alec Bohm led off with a double, and Brandon Marsh brought him in with an RBI single.  Craig Kimbrel came in to pitch the ninth and notched his 21st save of the season.  I don't think I've ever been in attendance for Kimbrel being brought in during a save situation, because I'm pretty sure I would have remembered this.  All of the lights in Citizens Bank Park go out for a few seconds before they strobe on and off while the speakers blast Welcome To The Jungle.  It's pretty bad ass!

After the Phillies 6-4 win on Monday night, they had a record of 73-58.  Today, it stands at 74-59, and barring a complete collapse in the last month of the season, they're headed for the playoffs.  They hit 59 home runs in the month of August, which is tied for the third most home runs that any team has had in a single month in the history of the sport.  The bullpen is beginning to look a little shaky, but things are looking good overall.

The Angels finished the month of August with a record of 8-19.  They're now six games under .500 and 11.5 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot.  In addition to that, Ohtani tore his UCL and won't be pitching for the rest of the season, and Trout is back on the bench just two days after he was reinstated from his previous 38 day stint on the injured list.  While I admire the fact that the Angels went all-in to compete for a playoff spot at the trade deadline, the decision has completely backfired.  Instead of selling at the deadline so that they could pick up a few prospects to build for the future, they've decided to place Lucas GiolitoReynaldo L√≥pez and Randal Grichuk on waivers, all three of whom they traded prospects away to acquire at the trade deadline.  They've also placed Matt Moore and Hunter Renfroe on waivers, which means that another team could claim any of these five players, and the only thing the Angels get in return is a little bit of salary relief, as the claiming team would have to pay a prorated portion of their salary.  This may be the most immediately disastrous trade deadline that any MLB team has ever had.

Unless a ridiculously good deal falls into my lap, that will be a wrap on our games for the 2023 season.  I'd love to go to a post-season game, but the ticket prices for playoff games in Philadelphia are far more than what I am comfortable paying.  We'll be back in 2024.