Just when you think you’ve seen everything in baseball, this happens: A two-run single on a pop-up — to the pitcher’s mound! — in the top of the ninth inning.
And this: A leadoff — two-run! — inside-the-park home run in the 10th.
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Bonkers, right? Naturally, it came at the Phillies’ expense Tuesday night in a wild, crazy, crushing 10-9 loss in 10 innings against the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park.
“You come to the ballpark, you don’t really know what you’re ever going to see,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “I think we saw some stuff tonight that usually you definitely don’t see, some stuff that I’ve never seen on the field. Tough one to lose, for sure.”
One familiar sight: Runs scored against the Phillies bullpen.
Tommy Hunter gave up two in the seventh, closer Hector Neris allowed three in the ninth (after Jean Segura called off Hoskins, then dropped the fateful pop-up), and Deolis Guerra got tagged for two in the 10th when diving center fielder Roman Quinn missed Austin Hays’ sinking liner that turned into a home run.
If you’re keeping track, the Phillies bullpen has yielded 40 earned runs in 35 1/3 innings. That’s a 10.19 ERA.
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Back in the spring, before anyone knew if sports would be able to resume in 2020, Major League Baseball mulled playing the season in one, two, or even three locations. A few star players burst those bubbles, though — sorry, pun fully intended — by objecting to leaving their families for several months during a pandemic.
But what if the bubble existed for only a few weeks?
Scuttlebutt within the sport, confirmed by the Los Angeles Times this week, is that MLB is conceptualizing an NBA-style bubble for the postseason, an idea that might gain steam considering the problems created by early-season COVID-19 outbreaks involving the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’m OK with it,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night’s game. “Whatever it takes to get this whole season in, I am for.”
In an interview with MLB Network last month, commissioner Rob Manfred rejected the idea that baseball should’ve isolated teams rather than having them play in their home cities by dismissing it as impractical.
Unlike the NBA, for instance, MLB would have had to maintain a bubble for a full season, quarantining as many as 900 players and a few hundred coaches and essential staff for at least three months. And the states with enough ballparks to make it happen — Florida, Arizona, California, maybe Texas — have been COVID-19 hotspots throughout the summer.
“We’re different than other sports,” Manfred said. “The numbers of people involved and the numbers of people to support the number of players was much, much larger in our sport. The duration would’ve been much longer, and the longer you go, the more people you have, the less likely it is that you can make the bubble work.
“I think the decision that we made with respect to the bubble was the right one.”
But those issues wouldn’t be as daunting in a playoff bubble. Not only would teams need to isolate for a shorter duration (only October), but the bubble would house 16 teams rather than 30. And many of those teams would be eliminated fairly quickly, too, after the wild-card round.
A bubble wouldn’t eliminate the risk of spreading the virus. But it might help to mitigate it at a time when competitive integrity is essential.
What would happen, for instance, if two teams had to sit out for a week in October, as the Marlins and Phillies did recently after 18 Marlins players tested positive for the virus in Philadelphia? The Cardinals haven’t played in two weeks and are almost certain to not be able to complete a 60-game schedule.
So, if a bubble makes it easier to reach the end of the World Series without interruption, Girardi would be in favor.
“It’s not like you have a home-field advantage because there aren’t fans here,” Girardi said. “It’s nice to play in your own ballpark and sleep in your own bed, but if that’s what it takes, I’m all for it. Bubble, no bubbles? I’m OK with anything they do. Just get us there.”
Here’s more on Nick Pivetta’s demotion, the call-up of Connor Brogdon, and the Phillies’ latest round of bullpen roulette.
The news that Nick Williams was designated for assignment made me recall a spring-training conversation with the outfielder about being the last player left from the Cole Hamels trade in 2015.
Tonight: Phillies’ 13-game homestand continues vs. Orioles, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta makes third career start vs. O’s, his former team, 4:05 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open a three-game series vs. Mets, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola aims for third consecutive double-digit strikeout game, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Ex-Met Zack Wheeler faces New York in series finale, 1:05 p.m.
One long Phillies drought ended Monday night, when Aaron Nola got his first win since last Aug. 20, a span of 356 days in which a total of 361 major-league pitchers picked up at least one victory.
But another unwanted streak continues.
Rhys Hoskins hasn’t homered since last Sept. 17, when he hit a two-run shot against Dallas Keuchel in Atlanta. Since then, it has been 329 days and 106 Hoskins plate appearances, the longest homerless stretch of his career. During that time, 378 players have gone deep at least once.
Question: After hearing Matt Klentak and management insist it is time to contend this year with no more excuses, how can they justify having this horrendous, abominable inexperienced bullpen? What does it do for the team and starting pitchers’ morale to see close games deteriorate time and again? Trevor Kelley was let go by Boston, and the Red Sox need pitching desperately. Some of the relievers look like a deer in headlights! I enjoy reading Extra Innings!
— David C., via email
Answer: Hey, David. Thanks so much for reading. You make a terrific point about the incongruity between Klentak’s “it’s time to win” mantra from last fall and the construction of this bullpen.
Here’s the thing: The Phillies threw a lot of money at the ‘pen over the last two years (Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, David Robertson) and got little return on their investments. This year, they went for volume, taking numerous low-cost fliers rather than pinpointing bigger-name veterans. Obviously that hasn’t worked, either.