Forget about the International League All-Star Game; the one that saw IronPigs Tyler Cloyd give up most of the winning runs in the first inning and Kevin Frandsen strike out to end the game. Forget about it. As baseball rules dictate, once we forget about something, it never happened.
Focus, instead, on the Double-A All-Star Game of the Eastern League, the one that occurred in Reading and featured a whole bunch of crazy crap that everybody got really excited about. Even Deadspin got in on the action, and they only show up for the coolest and classiest of events.
Tyler Jett of Philly.com kind of summed things up so nicely that nobody else should even try.
A stand-up double, a hot-dog-flinging man riding a fake ostrich, T-shirt guns, T-shirt slingshots, men in American-flag body suits sweeping the dirt, two singles, inflatable mascots boogying in front of the home dugout, two girls in fairy costumes cleaning home plate with a cartoonishly large toothbrush, a fan in a sumo suit jumping off a trampoline onto another fan in a sumo suit, pregame fireworks, postgame fireworks. Oh, and a walk-off win.
And thus was mindset of the contest; baseball becoming a veritable afterthought to the utter madness. Which is fine, when you consider the madness which baseball has inspired this year.
Sebastian Valle, Darin Ruf, Cesar Hernandez, and Leandro Castro were our starting heroes for the game, which was managed on our side by R-Phils skipper Dusty Wathan. Valle enjoyed a walk and had his extra base hit murdered right in front of him when a Nationals prospect named Chris Rahl made a “great” catch.
R-Phils reliever Jordan Whatcott entered the game in the top of the ninth, his thoughts humming with electric vengeance. 11 pitches later, he came out of two-thirds of the inning unscathed, having induced a ground out after K’ing Rahl, vaporizing any hope that the smarmy future-Nat had about immortalizing himself in All-Star lore. He went home a nobody.
Ruf–this generation’s Matt Rizzotti–and the gang ran the table in the third, with a single by Hernandez, power driver via Ruf, and a base-getter by Castro, with Castro being the sole Phil who didn’t also score.
But the real hero was Troy Hanzawa, who came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, tasked with keeping the two-out inning alive, along with the hopes that this All-Star Game wouldn’t end in a tie and rob every player in attendance of their dignity.
One by one, he grazed each pitch from Hector Nelo–a Nationals prospect, already teeming with the despicable weasliness we’ve come to expect from the organization–until finally, lowering the pitcher’s confidence enough for him to allow a rather incompetent walk.
Hanzawa then watched as a Yankees prospect behind him singled, and finally Eric Campbell of the Binghamton Mets zinged another single past Buck Britton at third–brother of Zach Britton–for Hanzawa to score the winning run, thus maintaining the pride and sanctity of the game, despite the Nationals’ prospect’s best efforts to make everybody go home as disgusted with themselves as he probably is (Eastern League ASGs will end in a tie if necessary).
And so, we learn a valuable lesson from the Eastern League: Scoring runs late in the game can sometimes lead to victories. It’s a lesson the real Phillies may learn as they head into what will be a flaccid second half. But mostly, we can take pride knowing that somewhere in our organization, some Phillies are playing inspired baseball.