The last time ESPN’s Alex Rodriguez called a Phillies game, he was widely mocked for describing the cheesesteak he was served at Citizens Bank Park as a “cheese sandwich."
Sunday night, Rodriguez rebounded by calling a strong game alongside play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian, including criticizing several mistakes Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made during the team’s 9-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday Night Baseball.
In one instance, in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on second base, Kapler elected to pitch to the hot Kevin Pillar instead of walking him to face the struggling Brandon Crawford. The result? Pillar broke off a triple on a pitch from Phillies starter-turned-reliever Nick Pivetta, driving in what ended up being the game-winning run.
“You have a base open... there’s no need for the hot Pillar to get a pitch this good in this situation. Walk him, pitch to Crawford. That’s a mistake by Gabe Kapler,” Rodriguez said. “Careless managing, even more careless pitching for the Phillies.”
Rodriguez’s criticism of Kapler’s decisions earned positive marks from skeptical Phillies fans, including 94.1 WIP host Glen Macnow.
My colleague Scott Lauber questioned why Kapler’s best option in the eighth inning of a tied game was Pivetta, who ultimately gave up three hits, including a two-run single to pitcher Will Smith in his first ever MLB at-bat.
“OK, let’s pause and think about that for a moment: With the outcome in the balance, in a game that could have wild-card implications, Kapler’s best option out of the bullpen was a pitcher with nine career relief appearances and a 5.36 earned-run average this season,” Lauber wrote.
“It was the matchup that we looked for,” Kapler told reporters following the game. “We were going to set up Pillar with fastballs up and out, hammers [curveballs] down. We weren’t able to execute.”
SportsCenter host Kevin Negandhi, a Temple graduate and lifelong Phillies fan, also criticized Kapler’s management on Twitter following the game, blaming him for the team’s “lack of urgency.”
Speaking of Rodriguez, he was the lone analyst in the booth Sunday, as his ESPN colleague Jessica Mendoza was recovering from injuries she suffered in a car accident.
Mendoza, in her second second as Sunday Night Baseball analyst, was hurt when a car she was driving was rear-ended Friday on a Southern California highway.
According to ESPN communications director Ben Cafardo, Mendoza tried to be in the booth for the Phillies’ loss, but ultimately decided to rest and recover. With Rodriguez and Vasgersian already scheduled to call the game, ESPN didn’t consider turning to a fill-in host.
Mendoza is expected to be back in time for ESPN’s broadcast of the Little League Classic between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday.
“She’s feeling a lot better, and we’ll see her again next weekend,” Vasgersian said before the start of the game.
• The Eagles open the regular season on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. against the Washington Redskins on FOX. Calling the game will be the network’s No. 2 crew of Kevin Burkhart and Charles Davis, the voice of Madden football. Pam Oliver will handle the sideline reporting.
• 97.5 The Fanatic morning show host Marc Farzetta is off the air celebrating the birth of his daughter, Emanuella Mae, with his wife, Celeste. Farzetta’s co-hosts Tra Thomas, Bob Cooney, and Jaime Lynch will hold down the fort until he returns.
• It looks like former Phillies outfielder and current FOX analyst Jeff Francoeur has been taking slide-in tips from NBC’s Cris Collinsworth.