The Los Angeles Dodgers came to town, packing a roster full of NL West-leading stars, including former Phillies icon Jimmy Rollins and star rookie Joc Pederson. But it was the Phils’ own rookie star, 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, who shined brightest in a 6-2 victory for the hosts on an emotional night at Citizens Bank Park.
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That emotion was fueled by the return of the franchise’ all-time Hits leader, and the leader of the 2008 World Series championship team. The popular JRoll was given a rousing standing ovation as he strode to the plate for his first at-bat leading off the top of the 1st inning.
Rollins would strike out swinging at a Jerome Williams 2-2 pitch, but would contribute a pair of hits to the Dodgers attack as the game rolled along. However, it was his final at-bat that would prove the most dramatic on the LA side of the ledger.
Before we got to any of the real drama, the game began by moving along as a duel between pitchers, one in Williams dodging continuous trouble, the other in Braves’ newcomer Alex Wood, who cruised for a time.
Williams allowed 7 hits and walked 3 across 5 innings. But he struck out 6, and allowed just one earned run in tight-roping his way out of regular trouble.
Wood, who came to Los Angeles in last week’s big MLB trade deadline 3-way deal between the Braves, Marlins, and Dodgers was making his first start for his new club. He pitched into the 7th, having scattered 7 hits while striking out 8 and walking none to that point.
In that bottom of the 7th, Wood yielded a leadoff single to Carlos Ruiz, and then when a ground out moved Ruiz to 2nd base, Braves’ skipper Fredi Gonzalez had Wood intentionally walk the hot Cesar Hernandez to try to setup force out and double play situations.
It was there that the game suddenly unravelled on Wood and the Braves. The lefty tried to deliver a pitch to Herrera, and the ball incredibly slipped from his hand as the pitcher was in full delivery mode. It rolled towards 1st base as Ruiz came all the way around to score.
The umpires correctly called the awkward pitch a balk, sending Ruiz back to 3rd base, advancing Cesar Hernandez to 2nd. As the pitch was also ball four on Herrera, he moved to first base. So with the bases now loaded and Wood having thrown 109 pitches, Gonzalez went to his bullpen, bringing in righty Joel Peralta to face Franco.
The Phillies talented rookie waited little time to do his damage. On a 1-1 pitch, the 3rd baseman demolished a batting practice-caliber breaking ball that must have looked as big as a beach ball, crushing the pitch way out into the left center stands for a grand slam and a 5-1 Phils lead.
In the top of the 8th, Carl Crawford‘s RBI double cut the Phillies lead to 5-2, and led manager Pete Mackanin to bring on closer Ken Giles to try to record a 4-out save. The first of those outs would prove to be the final dramatic plate appearance of the night for the Philly crowd’s former hero Rollins.
With runners at 2nd and 3rd and two outs, Rollins stepped to the plate against the young fireballer. A hit would likely score a pair of runs, getting the Dodgers right back into the game. But Giles would have none of it. On a full count, the righty slipped a 100mph fastball just over the lower inside corner of the dish for a crowd-pleasing and rally-snuffing strikeout.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Phillies current shortstop earned the team a clinching run. He walked with one out, stole 2nd base with two outs, and then came around to score on a single by Brown that made the final 6-2 score.
After a walk and an error put two of the first three batters on in the Dodgers 9th, Giles got the 2nd out on a liner to the outfield, and then faced the dangerous Yasiel Puig as LA’s last chance. Puig struck out on a 2-2 foul tip, and the Phillies had the victory. It was the 3rd Save for Giles since taking over as closer a week ago.