The vibe is palpable.
You can hear it. You can feel it. You sense the buzz. Things look different. Things feel different. The press box is starting to get a little more crowded. The stadium is starting to get a little more filled. The star player is closer to returning.
Heck, the arrival of two new players plus the return of another had things especially pulsating Thursday.
The Phillies won the game 5-4. It was shortened to just four-and-a-half innings by rain.
Rhys Hoskins (2-2, 2RBI) and Alec Bohm (3-run homer) were the hitting stars. Nick Castellanos (outfield assist) was the defensive star, nailing a runner at the plate to end the top of the fifth, thus making it an official game.
Noah Syndergaard made his Phillies debut, earned the win (and a cheap complete game) but was rusty. He allowed 11 hits in five innings, although to be fair, with only a couple exceptions, most of the contact made by the Nats was weak. Three of their hits never left the infield. One was a bloop that just went over the head of Bryson Stott. Another was a fly ball that most right fielders would have caught, but Castellanos let fall in front of him for a hit.
According to stat cast, the average ball hit by Washington had an exit velocity of just 83.5 MPH, which is about four MPH less than what Syndergaard has allowed all season long.
Considering it was only his second start in 23 days, it’s no surprise he needed to shake off some rust.
The fans even got excited by a hit from Brandon Marsh in his first Phillies at bat and watching him scoot from first to third on a single by Kyle Schwarber.
Oh, and the Phillies won for the eighth time in the last 10 games, improved to a season-best nine games over .500 (57-48) and still hold the final Wild Card spot in the National League, via a tiebreaker over both St. Louis and Milwaukee, who are now tied for the N.L. Central lead after the Brewers were swept in Pittsburgh and the Cardinals won both ends of a double header against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday.
However, the Phillies did inch closer to the two wild card teams ahead of them, as both the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres lost their respective games, pulling the Phils within 2.5 of the Padres and 5.5 of the Braves.
Yet, none of that stuff is what had the fans buzzing Thursday.
Here’s a time line of what people cared about with the Phillies last night:
Bye Bye, Didi
They tried to sneak it in at the bottom of a tweet:
The Phillies announce the following transactions:
CF Brandon Marsh and RHP Noah Syndergaard have reported to the club.
INF Jean Segura has been reinstated from the 60-day IL.
RHP Kyle Gibson has been activated from the Bereavement List.
INF Didi Gregorius has been released.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 4, 2022
In journalism, that’s what we call burying the lede.
This was a move the Phillies had to make, as difficult as it might have been. Didi was beloved in the clubhouse. He has always been well-liked, everywhere he’s gone.
But, as fellow St. Joe’s Prep grad Tim Reilly astutely pointed out, Gregorius had to go. He was providing zilch offensively, and although he had been better defensively of late, he wasn’t going to start ahead of rookie Bryson Stott, who has been vastly improved of late (.265/.306/.456/.762 since July 10 with four doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs. He also had not gone consecutive games without a hit in that span). And with the acquisition of Edmundo Sosa to be a defensive replacement at short and Darick Hall continuing to hit well from the left side, likely moving into the lefty bench bat spot once Bryce Harper returns, the roster was out of room to include DIdi.
Interestingly too, the Phillies flat out released Gregorius. They didn’t designate him for assignment. They didn’t put him on unconditional waivers. He was just released.
That means the Phillies are on the hook for the roughly $5 million remaining on his salary for the 2022 season.
And that’s notable.
Because when they DFA’d Jeruys Familia and Odubel Herrera on Tuesday, the Phillies also took a financial hit of a little more than $2 million on Familia and a little under $1 million on Herrera.
All told, that meant the Phillies were willing to pay an additional $8 million for players to no longer be here, PLUS pick up the remaining salary for Syndergaard, which is approximately $7 million.
A commitment to spending that kind of money for a team to fill holes and make a playoff push resonates through a clubhouse. The Phillies players were a bit more fired up than usual pre-game. They know what the path ahead is. They can feel it. And management’s financial commitment only boosted their energy.
Bryce, Part One
Harper gave a medical update before the game after doctors removed the pins in his left thumb. He started to play catch and took swings off a tee – and he felt good. But more importantly, he gave us an idea of when he might return.
“September-ish,” he said.
Knowing Harper, that “ish” likely means sooner than September, assuming all goes well with his recovery. Both he and the Phillies would love for him to return for that four-game series with the Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 19-21, but that might be a smidge too soon.
A week later, when the Pirates come to town, seems about right. It will have been a full two months since the injury.
Nearly 40,000 fans came down in the soupy weather to cheer on the Phils against the woeful Nationals. Yes, it was the start of Alumni Weekend, which always draws well, but there was a different energy. The biggest cheers came for the announcement of Jean Segura back in the lineup for the first time since May 31.
But this was even better:
Noah Syndergaard's warmup music is "Carmina Burana" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) August 4, 2022
That’s awesome. I mean, here we were, in early August against the Nationals, and Thor, decked out in the powder blues for the first time ever (he talked about how much he liked them after the game), throwing warmup pitches for a game with this blaring through the stadium speakers:
It’s as if he was shooting his own personal hype video and we were all extras for it. Imagine trotting this out when the Mets come to town? Or that last home series of the season vs. the Braves, or (Gulp) a home playoff game. Add in some videos of lightning strikes and flash the lights, Ring the Bell a couple of times, Citizens Bank Park will explode like it hasn’t in at least 13 years.
Speaking of Lightning Strikes….
Alexa, play Thunderstruck by AC/DC. pic.twitter.com/tIoQlz0AID
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 5, 2022
The editors at NBC Sports got a little creative there, but we did get that lightning strike, not once, but twice. So appropriate with Thor on the mound, but damn, that was dangerous. It brought us the storm that shortened the game and it also shortened one other thing…
Bryce Harper, Part 2
There was an unexpected analyst in the booth for the game Thursday. Harper joined Tom McCarthy and John Kruk to serve as a second analyst for the game. Apparently, he was an absolute hit:
Bryce Harper is a natural in the broadcast booth. Imagine being that good at playing baseball and broadcasting baseball!
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) August 4, 2022
I vote for Bryce Harper to be in the broadcast booth for every game until he’s back in the lineup. I’m loving listening to his insights on his teammates and on baseball. He also 1000% understands Philly sports fans and was made to play in this city.
— Brooklyn (@Brookie425) August 4, 2022
Bryce Harper in the broadcast booth is absolutely fantastic.
— The Philadelphia Sports Table Podcast Show (@PhiladelphiaPST) August 4, 2022
Harper in the booth for the TV Broadcast
Bryce: “man I can’t believe how different this team (Nationals) looks right now…”
Kruk: “Well you started it!!…”
— Ryan Rothstein🚨 (@WiseRye) August 5, 2022
— Kevin Negandhi (@KevinNegandhi) August 5, 2022
And then this happened….
Bryce just said Trea Turner is his favorite player in the league and it’s not even close 👀👀👀👀
— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) August 5, 2022
Didn’t he try this with Mike Trout a few years ago? It got me wondering though, if the Phillies are trying to take their cue from across the street:
i will take it
— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) August 5, 2022
It was almost the best thing to happen in the broadcast booth all day. Almost. Except Scott Franzke took home the award for best moment:
First pitch of tonight's game that Scott Franzke almost caught. As told by Scott Franzke. pic.twitter.com/NzuBVKfRfv
— Nick Piccone (@_piccone) August 5, 2022