Phillies’ rookie 3rd baseman Maikel Franco turned around a fastball from Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman for a dramatic, game-tying 3-run 9th inning homerun, and the Phils went on to a 5-4 victory over visiting Cincinnati on a chilly Wednesday night in early June at Citizens Bank Park.
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Up until that 9th inning, there was very little to suggest that this was going to be anything more than another in a string of disheartening Phillies efforts on their march towards 100 losses in the 2015 season.
Cincy starter Mike Leake was outstanding through 8 strong innings, and entering the 9th he appeared headed towards a complete-game shutout victory. To that point, Leake had allowed just one hit, a 2-out single by Franco in the bottom of the 7th being all that stood between the Reds’ righty and a no-hit bid.
The Reds had built him a 4-0 lead headed to that fateful 9th. They scored a pair in the 2nd inning off Phils’ starter Cole Hamels, scratching out their runs on a walk and a pair of singles around a Hamels error. Otherwise, Hamels was strong as well, allowing just 6 hits in 7 innings, striking out 8 and walking 3 Reds batters.
Despite the strong outing, Hamels trailed as the Phils bats couldn’t figure out Leake. He was lifted in the top of the 8th, but not before taking the mound in a weird moment that had fans and scribes puzzled. Hamels went out, threw one warmup pitch at least than full speed, and walked off the mound and back to the dugout.
Speculation ran rampant: was something wrong? God forbid that Hamels suffered an injury. But the trainer never visited him, either on the mound or back in the dugout. Had he been pulled because a trade had been consummated? That appeared out as well. None of the usual activity from team officials that might accompany such a move was observed by those in attendance.
In the end, it turned out that manager Ryne Sandberg simply asked Hamels to take the action to allow a bit more time for Ken Giles to get ready out in the bullpen. Why Giles was not already properly warmed up was not explained.
In the top of the 9th, the visitors appeared to put it away as Phillies reliever Jake Diekman registered another in a series of what are becoming alarming failures. With one out, Diekman walked Brandon Phillips and then allowed a 2-run homer to Joey Votto, pushing the Cincy lead out to 4-0.
In the bottom of the 9th, Ben Revere got it started when he lined a pinch-hit single to right field. When Jeff Francoeur also fired a hit to right, the Reds rightfielder Jay Bruce made yet another error, allowing Revere to go to 3rd. That signaled the end of the night for Leake. “A lot of movement. He was tough to get a hold of. He was pretty impressive out there,” was how Sandberg later described the Reds starter.
With the tying run coming to the plate, the Phillies had Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, a pair of lefties capable of tying it with one swing, due up to bat. Reds’ manager Bryan Price decided to bring in his electric lefty closer Chapman.
After Francoeur took 2nd base when the Reds failed to hold him on, Utley lofted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Revere and getting the Phillies within 4-1. Howard followed by working a walk, and again the tying run came to the plate, this time in the form of Franco.
On a 1-0 pitch, the Phils’ talented rookie took Chapman out, crushing his heater into the left-center field stands. Suddenly out of nowhere, the Phillies and Reds were tied at 4-4. It was the 2nd consecutive night that the visitors had taken a seemingly safe lead late into the game, only to watch the Phils rally.
Still, that dramatic moment only tied it, and the teams moved to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Jonathan Papelbon walked leadoff man Tucker Barnhart, and Barnhart was sacrificed into scoring position. But Papelbon retired the next two batters to get out of the jam.
The Phillies then took a shot at winning it in the bottom of the 10th. With one out, Revere and Francoeur each again singled. Utley grounded into a force, with Revere moving to 3rd as the winning run. But lined out to right field, and the game moved to the 11th inning still tied at 4-4.
In the top of the 11th, Cincy again threatened when Votto led off with a double against reliever Luis Garcia. With one out, Bruce was intentionally walked, and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd on a ground out. Garcia (2-1) then bore down and struck out pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker, keeping it tied into the home 11th.
“There’s no excuse for it….I’ve got to make that play” ~ Reds’ Mattheus on his game-ending error
Ryan Mattheus took the mound for the Reds in that 11th inning, and with one out, Cody Asche sliced a double to left field. That set up the game-winning moment. Freddy Galvis grounded to Votto at 1st, and Votto flipped to Mattheus covering the bag for what appeared would be the 2nd out as Asche moved to 3rd.
However, that’s where the game’s 2nd key moment turned in the Phillies favor. Mattheus (0-1) failed to hold the simple flip. When he lost the ball, Asche steamed all the way around with the winning run. For the 2nd straight night, the Phillies had an improbable win. “There’s no excuse for it. We practice that in spring training probably 500 times. I’ve got to make that play,” said Mattheus afterwards.
On Thursday night at 7:05pm, the teams will conclude the series at Citizens Bank Park. Aaron Harang (4-5) is due to take the mound for the Phillies, who are seeking just their 2nd series sweep of the season. For the Reds, it will be Anthony DeSclafani (3-4) on the hill. The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants will then come in for the weekend.