As the calendar flipped to September, a majority of Philadelphia sports fans have already turned their attention to the Eagles.
And why not, it’s a football town. Even if the Eagles are a mediocre team, at best, and I could be being generous with that description, they’ll generate more conversation this month than the other three teams in town combined.
That’s even with the Phillies being in the middle of a pennant race.
Now, 10-15 years ago, that wouldn’t be the case. Yes, the Eagles would be at the top of everyone’s mind, but the Phillies had equal time, if not more.
But, there’s been so much false hope and empty promises from the Phillies in recent Septembers, that most fans aren’t willing to buy in this time. Not even as the Phillies put together an eight-game winning streak to open August and a six-game winning streak to close it (relatively, as one of those wins was in September), to get to within two games of first place in the National League East and of the NL wild card.
That’s because the failures of recent Septembers have left the majority of the fanbase skeptical. And that’s understandable. Each of the past three seasons, we were told to believe in the Phillies, only to watch them utterly collapse in September and miss the playoffs, extending their streak of non-playoff seasons to a Major League worst 10 seasons.
Sooooooo….. Are we doing this September collapse thing again Phillies? Please not this again. I can't take it anymore. #Phillies
— Phillies Baseball (69-65) 2.0 Gb (@BallPhillies) September 4, 2021
And although I am in the minority and have been telling anyone and everyone I know since the end of June that I believed in these Phillies and that they were going to come back over the final three months of the season and win this division, I remain astutely aware that an implosion can be on the horizon.
And, if it were to happen this September, maybe it would only be appropriate to begin against the Miami Marlins, a team who has been a thorn in the Phillies side the past few seasons.
Love someone like the Marlins love ruining Phillies seasons in September
— Jason Brown (@j0brown31) September 4, 2021
For the Marlins do seem to bring out the worst in the Phillies. And Friday night, was no different.
Gone was the six-game winning streak. Gone was the run of seven consecutive games of scoring seven runs or more. Back was the striking out at the most inopportune times. Back was the bad luck. Back was the costly defensive miscues. Back was the malaise that seemed to hover over the Phillies much of May and June.
The implosion suddenly felt palpable.
Wait… it’s just one game.
Yeah, A 10-3 loss to the stinking Marlins in a September playoff race will make you have all the feels.
The Phillies play a bunch of games against bad teams this month. Including Friday, 24 of the Phillies final 30 games were against teams waaaaaaay under .500.
That being said, it’s baseball. You’re going to lose to bad teams sometimes. It happens. Usually the worst teams in the league still win about 40 percent of the time. The Phillies were never going to go 24-0 in those 24 games. We all understood that.
But, if you are going to live with this team game-by-game, a loss like Friday can’t happen the way it did if you want to win the division.
SUCKING IN THE SIXTH
The Phillies were already finding themselves in a bit of a nip and tuck game with the Marlins when things went completely haywire Friday. So, it’s not like the Phillies were on top of their game against Miami to begin with.
Yeah, the score was 3-3 heading into the bottom of the 6th inning, but it felt like the Phillies were lucky to be tied, rather than feeling like they were ready to pull off their seventh straight win.
Bryce Harper, who in my mind has been a bona fide MVP candidate in the National League and likely deserving of the award if the Phillies make the postseason, had his worst game in months. He couldn’t figure out young Marlins lefty pitcher Jesus Luzardo and grounded into two double plays and popped up to that point. J.T. Realmuto, who has hit his former team well, also looked lost at the plate.
The Phillies were only in the game because of a leadoff homer by Freddy Galvis, the first of his career, and two extra base hits from Matt Vierling (more on him later).
On top of that, trade deadline acquisition Kyle Gibson hadn’t been as sharp as he’s been since coming over to the Phillies, allowing a three-run homer to Jesus Sanchez in the first inning before settling in a little bit there after.
But in the sixth inning, he would unravel.
It started with this triple by Jazz Chisholm.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. with a leadoff triple in the sixth.
He doubled in the first.
— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) September 4, 2021
Frankly, Chisolm should have stopped at second. It was stupid for him to go for third base there. No outs. Tie game. Bryce Harper has a gun. You never make the first out at third base, but really not in this situation.
Chisholm may have celebrated like he knew he had it the whole way, but if Galvis catches the one-hop throw at third, Chisholm would have been dead to rights.
Nevertheless, he was safe, and that pitch by Gibson, a hanger, center cut, can’t happen.
The Phillies played the infield in and the next batter, Phillie killer Miguel Rojas, singled through the hole to give the Marlins a lead they would never relinquish.
The next play was the killer though.
Jesus Aguilar hit a scorcher to third base. Galvis made a nice play to field the ball, but tried to do too much by turning two and sailed the ball into right field.
The simple play for Galvis was to set his feet and throw across the diamond and get Aguilar at first base for the first out of the inning. The next three Marlins hitters were free-swingers, and there’s a chance you get out of the inning down only a run.
Instead, the gamble put runners at second and third, forces manager Joe Girardi to intentionally walk the next hitter, Sanchez, in an effort to set up a situation where Gibson needs a strikeout and a ground ball double play to get out of the inning.
He got the K, by getting Lewis Brinson, but former Phillie Jorge Alfaro singled in a run, and Gibson’s night was done, even if his pitching line wasn’t.
And the rout was on.
Girardi turned to J.D. Hammer to try and keep it a two-run game. Hammer had been a bit of an unsung hero in the Phillies bullpen of late, often getting outs in these middle innings to either preserve a lead or keep the game within striking distance for the Phils.
Let’s just say though, Friday night wasn’t his night.
On his first pitch, a get-me-over fastball, Joe Panik ripped an RBI single. That pitch needs to be more competitive in that spot.
Next he walked Bryan De La Cruz.
This was followed by Hammer uncorking a wild pitch that allowed a run to score, and after a hard hit ball by Isan Diaz turned into a lineout, he walked Chisholm, who started this whole mess, and then gave up another single to Rojas, before getting pulled.
Thanks for showing up, J.D.
His pitching line: 1/3IP 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB 0K
And that, was the game, kids. Bad pitching and a costly error. It was so 2018. Or 2019. Or 2020. Or June 2021.
Good News and Bad news
As bad as the performance was, it didn’t hurt the Phillies at all. That’s the good news.
Despite the loss, the Phillies didn’t lose any ground in either race. They’re still two back of the Braves, who also lost in Colorado Friday, and they’re still two back in the wild card race after Cincinnati was blown out at home by Detroit and San Diego lost at home to Houston.
The bad news is, the Phillies missed a golden opportunity to get a game closer to everyone, so ultimately this becomes a day of lost opportunity more than anything.
Raise your hand if you had Matt Vierling taking important at bats for the Phillies in a pennant race in September.
Yeah, didn’t think so.
Nevertheless, he is, and he’s delivering. First, he trimmed the Marlins early lead to 3-2 with this triple:
Matt Vierling is a hard-hitting machine. He cuts the deficit to one with a triple.
— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) September 3, 2021
The killer for the Phillies here is that Vierling’s triple occurred with no outs – and they didn’t score him. Didi Gregorius, who was a late add to the lineup replacing a scratched Ronald Torreyes, struck out. As did Rafael Marchan. Gibson then grounded out to end the inning.
Gregorius or Marchan need to put the ball in play. A grounder past the mound likely ties the score. Same thing with a fly ball. Strikeouts there were no bueno.
Torreyes eventually came into the game as part of a double switch, so it was curious as to why Gregorius would be inserted into the lineup against a lefty, but it didn’t pan out, as he didn’t deliver, and it was Galvis at 3B, not Torreyes, when things went south in the 6th inning. Galvis was originally slated to start at short with Torreyes at third.
Anyway, back to Vierling…. He tied the game in the fifth inning with this double:
Matt Vierling cannot stop hitting.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 4, 2021
Vierling is now hitting a cool .529 with a 1.294 OPS in limited action for the Phillies this season, but, has shown that he belongs in the lineup somewhere against left-handed pitching at least. He’s likely going to be the starting centerfielder against lefties the rest of the way.