Watching the first inning of Friday’s 4-1 victory for the Fightin’ Phils over the visiting Washington Nationals, it was if Jerome Williams was picking up right where he left off in Grapefruit League play.
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The Phillies bats again seemed as if they haven’t wakened from the winter’s hibernation, and it looked as if the early run may hold up for the much ballyhooed World Series contending Nats.
Phillies fans were then happy to see the late 2014 version of Williams, who had been so successful over the final two months of last season, finally make his presence felt here in 2015.
Williams would settle in, keeping the ball down, stifling the Nationals bats over his next 5 innings. Williams seemed as if he flipped a magical switch. Crediting two productive bullpen sessions since breaking camp, he later stated,”I can’t really pinpoint what it was (in Spring Training). I know it wasn’t feeling right. I knew how to fix it and I wasn’t really fixing it at all.”
His command was excellent as he made this outing look effortless. He averaged only a little more than 13 pitches over the last 5 frames, striking out 6 while only allowing just one base on balls.
Perhaps most impressive, Williams struck out Bryce Harper 3 times. After throwing a 3rd strike to opposing pitcher Gio Gonzalez, CSN’s play-by-play guy Tom McCarthy described the pitch as “…a Gio Gonzalez curveball...”
Gonzalez, however, was excellent out of the gate, sailing through the first 6 innings on just 56 pitches, striking out 4 and walking two while surrendering 4 hits but no runs. Then came the 7th.
Maybe the Phillies needed the stretch more than the fans. Following the traditional respite from sitting through most of the game, the Phillies gave the fans a reason to leave their seats, playing small ball as manager Ryne Sandberg has been requesting.
Making the best of 2 walks and a hit batsman, the team loaded the bases on Gonzalez without the benefit of a hit. Xavier Cedeno replaced Gonzalez, but the baserunners remained his responsibility. Cesar Hernandez, pinch-hitting for reliever Luis Garcia, singled to right scoring two.
With 2 runners in scoring position, Cedeno plunked Ben Revere, once again loading the bases. Craig Stammen summoned to plug the hole, failed. Freddy Galvis lined a single to right, his third knock of the game, bringing in Andres Blanco, who was starting at third base. Chase Utley finished up the scoring with an RBI sacrifice fly to center.
Phillies relievers Garcia, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon each pitched one inning of scoreless relief. Garcia notching his first win, Giles picked up his first hold and Papelbon his second save to preserve the Phillies win. It was Paps 108th save in pinstripes, pulling him within 4 of the all-time franchise leader, Jose Mesa.
In the first four games thus far, the two most unheralded hurlers in the rotation have been the most effective. In a post game interview with CSN’s Gregg Murphy, Williams said, “Get the ball down, that’s my game.” Not only did he keep the ball down, he kept a potent lineup down as well.