For eight innings Saturday afternoon, the largest Citizens Bank Park crowd to watch a baseball game since something called COVID-19 flipped our world upside down went back and forth.
“Let’s go Yankees!” chants were drowned out by the most classic of Philadelphia responses: “Boooooooooo!”
And then in the ninth and 10th innings, it all came to a wonderfully entertaining crescendo with the Phillies’ fans getting their final jabs in when Jean Segura delivered his second straight walk-off hit in as many games.
The Phillies’ 8-7 win was their third straight walk-off win and it allowed them to get back to .500 at 31-31 for the first time since May 22.
“It was so good,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m so thankful for our fans and the emotion and the noise they made today. It was great to see a packed house. That’s what baseball is. It’s everyone enjoying it together. It’s the best atmosphere we’ve had all year long and I’m thankful for it.”
Girardi probably had a much different sort of feeling in the top of the ninth.
The large portion of Yankees fans among the 38,540 in attendance instantly made South Philly sound like the Bronx when DJ LeMahieu followed two ill-advised walks by closer Hector Neris with a line-drive, three-run homer into the left-field seats.
The deficit New York had been facing since the bottom of the first inning had finally been erased and the boos from Phillies fans were now being directed at Neris, who was charged with his second straight blown save.
If you’re hoping that will lead Girardi to make a change in closers that’s too bad.
“The bottom line is we won the game, right?” the manager said. “Hector gave up a home run to the MVP last year (on Thursday), right? And LeMahieu is pretty good, too. The thing that hurt him were the two walks and that’s what we have to take care of. Hector for the most part has been really good for us this year. Closers go through it. We’ll get him back on track and we’ll go from there.”
Neris did at least keep the score even with consecutive strikeouts of Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres to end the ninth and Archie Bradley followed with his best relief outing of the season in the 10th.
Under the extra-inning rules, Bradley went to the mound with a runner at second base and the Yankees’ Torres remained there. Bradley, with a lot of life back on his fastball, retired Gio Urshela on a grounder in front of home plate and then struck out the next two hitters.
A lot of people thought Bradley would replace Neris as the closer this season, but he got off to a slow start and then went on the injured list with an oblique injury.
“That’s the best Archie has thrown, but I’m not making any changes [at closer],” Girardi said.
It’s easier to say that when your team wins and that’s what the Phillies did in the bottom of the 10th.
With Ronald Torreyes at second base, Girardi ordered a sacrifice bunt from pinch-hitter Travis Jankowski, who was the goat Tuesday night when he got picked off second base in a one-run loss to Atlanta. This time, Jankowski laid down a perfect bunt against Aroldis Chapman.
“That might be one of the toughest guys in the league to bunt against,” Girardi said. “Chapman can get it up to 102, he’s got a good slider and he’s got a split now as well, but (Jankowski) did a great job.”
Not only did he get Torreyes to third, Jankowski was also safe at first when Chapman’s high throw pulled LeMahieu off the bag at first.
Two batters later, Segura hit a sharp grounder that forced Urshela to the dirt and Torreyes scored the winning run, silencing the Yankees’ fans and sending the Phillies’ fans home happy.
Before a lot of fans had a chance to sit down Saturday, the Phillies staged a first-inning hit parade, chasing Yankees starter Jameson Taillon after he had recorded just one out in the bottom of the first inning.
Herrera, Segura and J.T. Realmuto loaded the bases with three straight singles and Bryce Harper kept the line moving with a two-run single to center field. After Rhys Hoskins walked, Andrew McCutchen hit a ball that he thought was headed into the right-field stands for a grand slam.
Instead it landed in Aaron Judge’s glove for a sacrifice fly. It was the only out Tallon recorded and it was a productive one for the Phillies. When Alec Bohm followed with an RBI single to make it 4-0, Tallon’s afternoon was over after 33 pitches.
The kind of South Philly theater that only a visit from a New York team can generate first materialized in the top of the second inning when the Yankees answered with a couple of runs off Vince Velasquez on a long solo homer by Gary Sanchez and an RBI triple from Brett Gardner to make it 4-2.
The “Let’s go Yankees!” chants came through loud and clear.
“That atmosphere is the best,” Velasquez said. “It builds a lot of momentum and that’s one of the things you want to thrive on.”
For the most part, Velasquez did. After New York scored twice off him in the second, he delivered three scoreless innings by pitching out of a couple of jams in the third and fifth. LeMahieu opened the third with a double, but Velasquez responded by sandwiching a Gleyber Torres groundout around strikeouts of Judge and Urshela.
Two innings later, he got out of a first-and-second, no-out jam by ending the inning with consecutive strikeouts of Judge and Torres.
With the Phillies up 7-2 after five innings, it set the stage for a classic Phillie Phanatic routine in front of the visiting dugout. Dressed in tuxedo tails, the Phanatic danced to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” before smashing a plastic navy blue NY helmet right in front of the Bronx Bombers.
The routine appeared to irritate Giancarlo Stanton, but when the Yankees slugger had a chance to do something about it as a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth inning, he grounded out to reliever Ranger Suarez.
The Yankees did eventually answer in a big way in the ninth, but they eventually still went back to their hotel room as the losers.