As baseball fans, we all love Opening Day. It is a national holiday for us, believing that this season will be “our year”, no matter how high or how low expectations are. However, most Phillies fans are realistic and based on the last few seasons, I don’t think we were expecting too much from this young squad. Our Phils started out 0-4, blowing late leads and getting blown out. Many of us though, “This is going to be a long year.” Yet to our surprise, this Phillies team has generated some excitement this spring in Philadelphia. After their 0-4 start, they won 24 out of their next 37 games. Over the last week, the Phils have cooled off a bit losing their four series and dropping their record to 26-26. That shouldn’t take away from they’ve done so far, because let’s be honest, we didn’t expect them to be where anywhere near .500. Last year at this time, the Phillies had a listless record of 19-33 when the calendar turned to June. As we sit here on June 1st 2016, the Phils are sitting at .500 – a 14 -game swing from last season. The first seven weeks of the season have been fun as its brought some life back to the city, especially CBP. The Phils couldn’t have been successful without some heroic moments. Here are the Top 10 Moments of April and May.
10. April 30th – Peter Bourjos game-saving catch in the 9th
Peter Bourjos has had a rough go-of-it at the plate this year, hitting just .199, but he makes up for it in the field. He was always been touted as a tremendous fielder and Phillies fans have seen it on full display, with just 1 error the first two months. Bourjos’s game saving catch in the 9th inning against the Cleveland Indians starts our top moments of April and May. With runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth and the Phillies clinging to a 1-run lead, Jason Kipnis hit a screaming line drive to rightfield. Bourjos backtracked and made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to preserve the 4-3 win and save for Jeanmar Gomez. This was one of many one-run games the Phils won this year.
9. April 20th – Peter Bourjos walk-off single in the 11th against the Mets
Peter Bourjos comes through once again, this time at the plate. In a back-and-forth game against the rival Mets, Bourjos singled to right field with two outs in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game 4-4. Bourjos’s speed paid dividends in the 11th when he was able to leg out an infield single to score Freddy Galvis giving the Phillies a 5-4 victory over the New York Mets.
8. May 8th – Phils score in three of the last four innings to steal the rubber game in Miami, 6-5
The Phils were looking for a series win in Miami after losing the opener. Down 3-0 in the 6th inning, the Phillies scored a combined 4 runs in the 6th and 7th without hitting the ball out of infield to take a 4-3 lead. Unfortunately, Andrew Bailey coughed up 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th along with the lead. Doubles by Tyler Goeddel and utilityman Andres Blanco put the Phils on top again at 6-5. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez slammed the door shut on this resilient series win as many guys in red pinstripes contributed to this top moment.
Ryan Howard’s struggles have been well documented this season. Still, he did come through with a clutch home run against Michael Wacha in the 6th inning that provided the only run of the game. Aaron Nola pitched a gem against a tough Cardinals lineup going 7 innings, allowing just 2 hits, and striking out 7. Nola left his fate in the hands of one of the best 1-2 punches in the game – Neris and Gomez to seal the win.
6. May 12th – Cameron Rupp‘s bases clearing double in Atlanta for a big series win
Vince Velasquez was cruising through 6 and the Phillies were well on their way for a series win in Atlanta when they were up 4-0 in the bottom of the 7th. The Braves had other ideas, ambushing Velasquez and the Phils for 4 runs before making an out. The game stayed tied 4-4 going into extra frames until Cameron Rupp delivered a clutch bases clearing 2-out double to left-center field. Gomez closed the game out once again for the huge series win.
5. April 29th – Ryan Howard’s walk-off HR in the 11th vs the Cleveland Indians
This was the first of Howard’s two big homers this season. The Indians scored three runs in the top of the 5th inning to open the scoring. The Phils answered right back in the bottom half, scoring three runs off 2014 Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. Jerad Eickhoff and the bullpen kept the game tied 3-3 until the Big Piece led off the 11th inning and sent the fans home happy with a HR to right field, just like the good ole’ days.
4. April 28th – Cameron Rupp 2-run double off Papelbon to complete sweep in Washington
The Phils won the first two games in Washington and had their ace on the mound for the third. Aaron Nola dominated the Nats, posting the exact line he did in St. Louis. The game was scoreless going into the top of the 9th and when the Phils loaded the bases, the Nationals called in Jonathan Papelbon from the bullpen. Cameron Rupp stepped to the plate against his former teammate and delivered with a 2-run double to right field – bringing disgust to the face of Papelbon. Although the runs were not charged to Papelbon, it was still great to watch the Phils beat the controversial closer.
3. April 17th – Freddy Galvis walk-off double against Jonathan Papelbon
The Phillies were trying to win the final game of their opening series against the Washington Nationals. The game was tied 1-1 heading into extra innings when the Phils called on their closer Jeanmar Gomez to keep the score knotted. Gomez blew the lead when Bryce Harper hit a solo homerun to right-center field. That meant, of course, the Phils had to face Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom on the 10th inning. With one out, Peter Bourjos doubled to left field but then Cedric Hunter flied out center. Andres Blanco came up as a pinch hitter and knocked in Peter Bourjos on a single to left. Bourjos’s wheels allowed him to just beat the throw home from left fielder Jayson Werth. Next batter up: Freddy Galvis who promptly doubled off the left field wall to score Blanco for the comeback win. The fans loved it as Papelbon walked off the field in defeat.
2. May 14th – Tyler Goeddel’s throw to Cameron Rupp for the game-ending double play vs. the Reds
The Phils were up 4-2 in the 9th inning against the Cincinnati Reds looking for the series win. Jeanmar Gomez was unavailable to close, so Mackanin called on David Hernandez to get the job done. Hernandez allowed three straight baserunners and the lead was cut to one with runners on second and third and nobody out. Hernandez was able to induce a groundout to first, keeping the runners at bay. And then, this happened:
1. April 14th – Vince Velasquez’s 16K performance vs. the Padres
Vince Velasquez gave us a taste of how good he is at his best. Are the Padres an offensive juggernaut? No, but anytime you can strikeout 16 major league hitters in one game is something to hang your hat on. It’s something only seven pitchers have ever done in the history of Major League Baseball – with 16Ks, no runs, and no walks allowed. Velasquez was the second pitcher ever to allow 3 hits or fewer when striking out at least 16 without allowing any runs or walks. The first was Roger Clemens when he struck 18 in 1998. This was one of the best starts ever that wasn’t a no-hitter and also when the city was introduced to “Vinny from Philly.”