It turns out that when you waste an opportunity with runners on first and third base and no one out in a game that’s tied, that doesn’t bode especially well for your chances of winning a game. That’s especially true when the team you’re facing is in the midst of a razor thin race for the second American League Wild Card spot.
The Philadelphia Phillies (79-75) were reminded of that lesson Sunday, when they lost a crucial game to the Cleveland Indians (92-64) on Sunday Night Baseball.
J.T. Realmuto put the Phillies on the board first Sunday, as he laced a double into the left-center field gap that scored Scott Kingery.
The Indians evened the game up in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI fielder’s choice by Mike Freeman, but Phillies starter Vince Velasquez was largely effective through the first four innings Sunday.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Phillies had a chance to reward Velasquez and break the 1-1 tie. After Scott Kingery led the inning off with a double, Adam Haseley lined a ball off the glove of Indians third baseman Ryan Flaherty. With a chance to break the game open, Cesar Hernandez swung at the first pitch he saw, popping it up to Flaherty at third base. Indians manager Terry Francona then pulled starter Adam Plutko in favor over Carlos Carrasco. This proved to be a stroke of genius by the former Phillies skipper, as Carrasco would pitch 2.2 scoreless innings, highlighted by the inning-ending double play that he induced off the bat of Realmuto to end the fifth inning.
The momentum of escaping the top of the fifth unscathed carried over to the home half of the fifth for the Indians.
Even after errors from Jean Segura and Velasquez allowed the first two Indians runners to reach base, Velasquez fielded a poor bunt from Flaherty and threw out the lead runner at third base. After a groundout to first base by Francisco Lindor, Velasquez had Oscar Mercado down to his final strike. Ultimately, though, the Indians didn’t fail to capitalize on runners in scoring position, as Mercado launched a three-run home run on the next pitch:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 23, 2019
Though it felt unlikely that the Phillies would overcome the fifth inning, they still were within three runs until the bottom of the seventh. Suffice it to say, they weren’t within three runs after the home half of the seventh inning. Not even close.
Lindor extended the Phillies lead to 5-1 on an RBI single to right field that scored Flaherty from second. Mike Morin, who didn’t record a single out in the bottom of the seventh, would load the bases up before exiting, walking Mercado and hitting Carlos Santana. Cole Irvin would relieve Morin, though he didn’t fare well, as he gave up a bases-clearing double to Yasiel Puig, the first batter that he saw:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 23, 2019
Before the inning concluded, Edubray Ramos allowed a two-run home run to Franmil Reyes to extend the Indians lead to 10-1. Reyes, who began the season with the Padres, homered three times off of the Phillies when they visited Petco Park in early June. His fourth home run off of Phillies pitching was his 36th overall in 2019.
The Phillies wouldn’t score the rest of the night, as they now drop a full six games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot. They’ll open a five-game series with the division-rival Nationals in D.C. Monday, a series they essentially need to sweep. Even if they swept the Nationals – who currently own the top Wild Card spot in the National League – they still likely would face an uphill battle to snapping their seven-year postseason drought.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Though it took Vince Velasquez 13 pitches to strike out Francisco Lindor to open the game, he was solid through the first four innings of Sunday evening’s game. Unfortunately, the Phillies defense – which he was a part of – self-destructed to open the fifth inning. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to escape the fifth inning, as he allowed a three-run home run to Mercado. In total, Velasquez lasted 4.2 innings, striking out six and giving up four runs, just one of which was earned.
Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Carlos Santana
It’s been a rough year for those that were vocal detractors of Carlos Santana in his lone season with the Phillies. Back in Cleveland, the 33-year-old was an All-Star for the first time in 2019, and has had a career year.
With his former team in town, Santana had a rather remarkable series, highlighted by a big game Sunday evening. Sunday, Santana went 3-3, and also reached base on a hit by pitch. In total, he went 6-10 against the Phillies this weekend.
TicketIQ Next Game
- Monday Sept. 23 at Nationals
- 7:05 p.m. ET
- NBC Sports Philadelphia
- SportsRadio 94 WIP
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