TOP OF THE FIFTH: BREWERS 1 – 1 4 PHILLIES
Time to show Philly (and Milwaukee—Milly?) some love, starting with the one man set to save the City of Brotherly Love from the sports blues, the heir apparent to William Penn, Rocky Balboa, and Chase Utley. Mr. Maikel Franco.
2 home runs today. 23 years old. All-Star appearance number 1 coming in a few months time.
The picture I’ll bet most people have of the Phillies is still a team spiralling downward from talent-oozing excellence, going from World Series champs to runners up, to playoff contender…playoff qualifier…missing playoffs…then the NL East cellar. Losing to the Dodgers Jimmy Rollins, and the graying, slicked-back hairdo of Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard becoming sadly left out of the MVP conversations he always used to be a part of.
But they’re on a comeback here.
Both teams here at Miller Park had been predicted, by pretty much everyone, to be bound for the bottom of the National League, but they’ve started off warmer than expected, with the Phils creeping ever closer to a .500 record.
No idea how long this can last. But it’s looking good.
While not record-breaking or standings-changing in any big way, this fifth inning in Milwaukee did feel significant.
It was something, the kind of small example from an April that’ll get talked about years later as the month hope returned to Philadelphia, the kind of game details that once flipped a Cubs fanbase toward optimism 3-4 years ago, watching Anthony Rizzo pave his way toward winning amid an otherwise forgettable team.
For the Brewers, though, it’s a mixture–with everything retro at the moment, the old-school yellow and blue jerseys making a comeback, Don August up in the TV booth reminiscing about old teams and his own career path as the graphics team throws up a handful of throwback baseball cards, with his name signed into the corners.
On the mound, there’s youth. Zach Davies pitching, who looks young in the way Tim Lincecum did in his first Cy Young season – age 23 – and a dead-ringer for new Rays pitcher Blake Snell, who’s just back in the minors after a promising debut against the Yankees (and the best curveball I’ve seen all season…)
Cesar hernandez comes up now for the Phillies, lining a deep ball just foul into the corner, onto the dirt.
Hernandez—I had to look this up—is one of the team’s “veterans”, if that’s even possible, at just 25, with two career home runs and an OPS around .650. I know this type all too well, from my die-hard days following the 2012 Cubs, an anti-all-star lineup of Joe Mather, Darwin Barney, Steve Clevenger and Ian Stewart.
Hernandez pops up to the shortstop, trotting back to the dugout with Odubel Herrera coming up next—who’s just 24, and one of their building blocks—but whether he’s the real deal LEGO material or off-brand Mega Bloks remains to be seen.
Herrera wakes me up with a hard line-drive single to center for, his huge gold chain bouncing along the way to first, as the camera cuts to Jonathan Lucroy, who removes and then reattaches his catcher’s mask, looking over to the dugout for the signs.
Freddy Galvis up now, age 26, and we’ve got some action. He lines the first pitch he sees into the right-field corner for an easy triple, pulling a low fastball over the heads of the infield and into the scorecard for a nice RBI, as Herrera takes off on a loping, sprinting angle around second and then third before scoring easily, safe by two steps.
Up next, coming in from the on-deck circle, is the man of the match…man of the hour, week, month and probably their entire rebuild—Maikel Franco, age 23 and the only thing close to a superstar Philly’s got right now.
He steps in against Davies, the pitcher with likely the smallest face in the big leagues, the shade under the brim of his hat covering everything down to the chin, as he winds up and delivers.
Franco gets a curveball left down over the middle, and converts it into a billowing home run to left field, swagger-stepping his way around the bases, with Davies’ rookie season off to a suddenly miserable start.
— Phillies (@Phillies) April 23, 2016
The follow-through on the replay is a thing of beauty, in league with the bombs Andruw Jones used to hit for the Braves, Franco’s bat swung back almost into the catcher’s face, and his whole frame leaning back in admiration of the ball soaring toward the stands at Miller Park.
The ball lands well over Ryan Braun’s head, between him and the yellow “Bernie’s Dugout” slide (which had to have given Senator Sanders the edge in the Wisconsin primary, had to have), right over the 2008 Wild Card banner – which today is being played out as a kind of rematch.
But now, finally, we get a veteran. Old man Ryan Howard. The 36-year-old, I-could-be-your-father mentor to this younger generation of Phillies, stepping up to the plate looking to get the last word of this mid-innings rally.
First pitch from Davies: Howard crushes the ball to deep center, the papa-bear final touch on this youth movement and a reminder of victory from the only member of that ‘08 Brewers-beating team…. but Ramon Flores makes the catch on the last yard of the warning track. Howard trots back to the dugout.
The lead doesn’t change from here, as it’s 4-1 Phillies and they hang on to win 5-2 for the first whiff of a half-decent season record, at 9-9 with the first month soon to be over.
Can’t really give a diagnosis on these guys, but it’s not bad. Maybe even good long-term. Pretty good…pretty….pretty…pretty good.