PHILADELPHIA – The plan, when the Phillies first took over Citizens Bank Park on April 1, was not to have Hans Crouse to start Game 81 of the season.
They had no idea that three of the starting pitchers in their first five-a-side rotation would be injured or cut by the end of the season. They didn’t see the two survivors of their battle of attrition in the middle of the pitch end until May. They were hoping Rhys Hoskins could end a healthy season, that Brad Miller might not hit the cleanup in the meaningful games in September. They didn’t think Alec Bohm’s sophomore collapse would grow so deep that it would require a permanent move to the Lehigh Valley.
And they didn’tâ¦ well, honestly, who knows what everyone might have expected from this reliever box, even though 34 failed saves probably weren’t it.
The list goes on.
And yet, as Crouse’s first major-league delivery ended on Sunday at the right-field foul post, the Phillies were still 1-1.5 games away from a playoff berth and a win of have a fat under-.500 eight-season baseball monkey on their rear. They had done enough on the home stretch that the three-game set in Atlanta that begins Tuesday was actually decisive, although they would make the challenge even more difficult that day.
That fact, despite all the turmoil the 2021 Phillies caused, reveals an admirable reality: A lot has gone wrong for the Phillies, but to be in contention at the end of the season they must have done something good.
The flip side of all those incredibly slow starts against inferior teams is the hope to be better. The fact of blowing tracks regularly was often the scene of heroisms at the end of the round. Make no mistake, spotting the Pirates ‘six points this week or the Cubs’ seven points last week is excruciating baseball, but successfully preventing those games from turning into disasters reveals something interesting in this DNA. team.
Joe Girardi has repeatedly praised his team’s fight this season, both as individuals and as a group. With the exception of Bryce Harper and his MVP bid, everyone has faced protracted recessions. Harper has not been immune to injury bad luck that bit a roster where his six basic position players have only started two dozen games together this season.
Yet the warts and the 6-0 loss to the Pirates that day and all, they remain in the chase.
âI think we’re all looking forward to that,â Girardi said before a resounding Braves win in San Diego left the Phillies 2Â½ games behind with a week to go. âI think we have to look at it like, we have a game on Tuesday; find a way to win a game on Tuesday and let’s see where we are and go from there.
The choice of rubber-footed Crouse for the final start at CBP seems oddly about this janky trip. Crouse was part of the trade with Texas that helped change the season for the Phillies, the weight alongside Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy that allowed them to part ways with Spencer Howard. Gibson reinforced a choppy rotation, and the addition of Kennedy allowed the Phillies to use Ranger Suarez as a starter to good effect, as Saturday’s shutout showed. So it’s only fitting that the third installment of this comeback had its chance at some point.
It was also just Crouse’s second appearance above Double-A. The other was an average start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on 9/11 before being sent back to Reading and then elevated straight to the greats as the first guy to have the ball in what could thankfully be forward. -last match in the bullpen. season.
Crouse did his job, walking four and allowing two hits in three innings. With Christopher Sanchez and Cam Bedrosian, the Phillies held the game 1-0 in the seventh.
âI think he competed extremely well,â Girardi said. “We knew the three kids (Crouse, Sanchez, Adonis Medina) were going to have to pitch today and he’s the one who never got out of the pen, so we thought we’d take him out and see what he was doing. can do.”
In the biggest sweep of the season, Girardi is another who strangely persevered. He was brought in to be the baseball veteran, the seasoned manager who could make the most of an ego club in a way that supposed prodigy (and now manager of the year leader) Gabe Kapler couldn’t. not. And yet, Girardi also struggled on sections, especially in the management of the bullpen. But helping turn Ronald Torreyes into a clutch bench threat and Suarez into a top pitcher for an organization with no prospects, it’s a blessed baseball week to bring the Phillies back to the promised land of the playoffs.
Stack it up and it’s a lot of adversity, even for the usual six month marathon of a baseball season. Yet even now the Phillies are in the playoff picture.
“We have to win a game on Tuesday,” Girardi said. âThis is how it should be seen. Take a day off, rest tomorrow, guys can probably use the day off. Win a game on Tuesday and see where you stand.
Contact Matt DeGeorge at [email protected]; you can follow him @sportsdoctormd on Twitter.