The Phillies travelled across the international border to Canada, and brought with them baseball’s best record since the MLB All-Star break. After escaping with a 3-2 win over the host Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of this quick 2-game series at Rogers Centre, the club as now won 9 of 10 games since the midsummer classic.
The game was highlighted by the closer debut of Ken Giles, who ascended to the role with the pregame trade of all-time franchise Saves leader Jonathan Papelbon to the division rival Washington Nationals.
Giles recorded his first Save of the season, just the 2nd of his big league career, but not without some drama in the bottom of the 9th.
“I think I’m going to be a great closer.” ~ Giles
Before we got to that point, the game began with a pair of questionable starting pitchers faring well against hot lineups. Phillies rookie starter Adam Morgan (2-2) would last 6 innings against the vaunted Jays’ batting order, allowing just 5 hits and a pair of walks. He threw 50 strikes among his 79 total pitches on the night.
Those bats got to him for one run in each of the first two innings. Devon Travis led off the bottom of the first with his 8th homerun of the season to put Toronto on top 1-0. In the 2nd, a pair of singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly produced the 2nd run for the hosts and an early 2-0 lead.
Blue Jays’ starter Felix Doubront got through the first 4 innings cleanly, shutting out the Phillies. But in the 5th, the Fightins’ bats finally got to him. A leadoff single by Ryan Howard was followed by consecutive doubles off the bats of Darin Ruf, Cody Asche, and Andres Blanco.
The barrage of extra-base hits produce 3 runs, putting the Phillies on top by 3-2 and chasing Doubront from the game. With a hot Phils squad and a potent Jays attack, the odds seemed strong that there would be more runs on this night. But that was it for the scoring.
Four Toronto relievers, including LaTroy Hawkins in the 6th, completely shut down the Phillies bats the rest of the way, allowing no more baserunners while striking out a combined 7 across the final 5 innings.
Hawkins was obtained by the Blue Jays as a secondary piece in the big Troy Tulowitzki trade with Colorado on Monday. The all-star shortstop is expected to be in the lineup for the Wednesday night finale to this series.
The Phils bullpen was nearly as dominant, and certainly as effective. Jeanmar Gomez and Luis Garcia each shut down Toronto for an inning, leading to Giles’ first Save opportunity and the 9th inning drama.
The Jays’ 9th began when Edwin Encarnacion, nearly struck out looking earlier in the at-bat, slung a leadoff base hit to left field on a full count pitch.
Chris Colabello and Russell Martin then each drove deep fly balls that looked strong off their respective bats. But the former landed in the glove of center fielder Ben Revere at the warning track, and the latter in the glove of right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Giles then coaxed a grounder to shortstop for the game-ending force out.
There will be nights where it will be like this for the Phillies new closer with the colorful “100-miles Giles”, as in 100-miles per hour pitch speeds. He will walk a tightrope and escape trouble. Other nights, he will blow teams away. Every night, he is likely to have confidence.
“I think I’m going to be a great closer.” That was one of the statements that Giles made in his postgame commentary to the media. He may not have been “great” on this night, but he was certainly good enough to lock down yet another victory for this suddenly competent baseball team.