Game 51 // Fifth Inning, Philly // Maikel Franco: Drummer Boy

BOTTOM OF THE FIFTH: PHILLIES 8 (3) – 0 BREWERS

 

The walls. The walls. Today’s theme, maybe a new feature if there’s ever such a coincidence again.

To review: Tommy Joseph cracked a deep drive to right-center, hit right, right at the edge of the wall in right-center field. Almost above the wall—just below the three-foot metal barrier protecting groups of fans from doing exactly what they ended up doing. Three gents in their mid-20’s, the spitting image of the Paddy’s Pub gang, their arms meshed together in a human net ushering a borderline home-run into the joy of a full-on bleacher party. Hardly a regard for the rules and even less so for the buzz-kill decision from the ump that came later. No home run. Fan interference. Ground-rule double. But a 4-0 Phillies lead, and a continued round of day-drinking beyond the outfield wall.

So, the walls—the early story of this fifth inning.

One wall in particular. Then, eventually, the others.

Jimmy Paredes came up next—his surname a direct Spanish translation for WALLS. And the best piece of hitting by a “Walls” since the durable, occasionally great Lee Walls: 1958 All-Star right-fielder for the Chicago Cubs.

Where did this Paredes send the ball, not one batter after Tommy Joseph’s top-of-the-wall hit came back for a double?

Over his namesake, over the pared, deep to right field for a three-run homer to make up for the called-back, deserved precursor. Más, más allá de las paredes…

jimmy paredes

Sketch by Henry Gustavson

It’s been in many ways the Year of the Wall, after all, filled (as we’ve heard, ad nauseam) with talk of wall-building, wall-financing, Wall Street, and on and on. An entire year of walls, and a long row of strange, quotable lines for historians to sift through many years from now:

GOP nominee Donald Trump: “I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I will build a great, great wall, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

And the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox: “I’m not going to pay for that f*cking wall!”

 So now, on the baseball diamond, in a sport that’s always marked the times of this country, we get a sort of symmetry. Politics already synced up with entertainment, now with sport, and I recall what James Earl Jones said famously in Field of Dreams: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

Indeed it has.

So on June the 5th, 2016, in Philadelphia, amid a whole season of wall-talk, wall-walk, things reached a peak—with baseball, as that film put it so well, once again marking the times.

Here’s how it went down:

Odubel Herrera comes up and works a long at-bat, looking to extend the Phils’ 3-0 lead, with Wily Peralta on the mound for Milwaukee, in the emasculating, elastic light-blue and yellow of a throwback ‘70s jersey set that never should’ve re-seen the light of day.

The Brewers look like… a set of forever-outdated pajamas. Their shirts have no pinstripes or buttons, their pants have no belt loops and look large in all the wrong places. The color scheme reminds me of the wrapper to an old off-brand bubble gum.

Herrera rips a foul-ball hard into the stands above the third-base dugout. A whistle noise from on of the Philadelphia TV guys: “Whew,” he says, “can you imagine that baby whizzin’ by you in the stands?”

This Phillies team, meanwhile, has gone retro as well, with the 1970’s white-striped kepi hats and maroon, swirled “P” on the shirts and hat.

Herrera hits a chopper up the middle, Scooter Gennett scoots over and nabs it, twists and jumps in the air like a basketball move, and he’s just late with the throw to first. Herrera dives into the base, or completely over it, I should say, his knees making contact with the bag as the rest of his body flies ahead on a fully laid-out dive down the line. Safe.

Ryan Howard and the rest of the home dugout cheers from behind the railing, a matching set of boxy maroon hats on hand.

Herrera steals second, with a great jump on the first pitch to Freddy Galvis, brushing off a dirt-stained jersey, his gold chain popping out of his shirt.

Galvis then grounds out, and it’s Maikel Franco coming up in his place. One out, Herrera on third. Intentional walk.

So we’ve got a massive gold chain on first, an even larger gold chain on third, with the two leaders of the Phillies’ youth movement grinning at each other across the infield, nodding: “Turn this into a blowout?”

Tommy Joseph comes up.

Peralta delivers, and Joseph rips the first pitch foul, a hard ground-ball—and a long row of fans along the third-base wall reach out for it empty-handed, like the flopping, drooping fabrics inside a carwash, as the ball girl chases it onto the grass, almost all the way to the left fielder.

“I GOT it!!” someone shouts into one of the TV mics, as another identical ground-ball rolls foul, and a Phillies fan comes up with it this time, a guy sporting red cheeks and a bowl cut, handing the ball to a kid nearby. Not bad, next to a botched catch from a fan the day before:

And the next pitch: a fastball down the middle. Joseph gets ahold of it.

It’s deep to right-center, and here we have that first encounter with the wall, the ball soaring high over the scoreboard, and those three rowdy fans reeling in a ball that had no business going into the crowd. The dugout, meanwhile, is all smiles as Joseph rounds the bases and touches home, happy with a 6-0 lead on the (temporary) books, the Liberty Bell soundtrack chiming out on the PA system.

Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell comes out of the dugout now to challenge, who looks Brad Stevens / Tyronn Lue young, auburn Oakley shades flipped up atop the brim of his cap.

And so starts a “crew chief review,” which I think consists of the umpiring crew calling in to MLB in New York, to judge the play. The umps all don headsets and a small, gawky assistant comes out to stand by their side, MLB At Bat printed on his black cap.

The review goes on. Four minutes to five, six turns into seven, and I’m thinking anything over the minute mark must not be all that conclusive, per the replay rules.

In a sudden hurried motion, the headsets all come off. The head umpire grips his right wrist with his other arm—“Holding?” says one of the TV guys. The ump makes a series of pointing gestures, like a marionette with full command over the ballpark infield. Ground-rule double, he rules, with Joseph trotting back to second, out of the dugout, and the lead knocked back to 4-0.

Counsell throws two fingers in the air and flicks his wrist toward the bullpen, striding out to the mound to grab the ball from Peralta.

So the big man comes out, wiping his forehead with his his sleeve, and in comes Neil Ramirez, who I’ll always have a soft-spot for. Heroic headliner of the ’14 Cubs bullpen, contributor to last year’s big playoff run, reluctantly let go when a roster logjam forced Theo Epstein’s hand.

After today, I might not miss the guy all too much…

First pitch to Paredes, Mr. Walls, and his bat whips in a blur through the zone. It’s gone. Soaring deep, over the wall, well over the wall, far into the right-field seats for a makeup three-run homer, the baseball gods giving Philly a reprieve.

“You want a three-run home run??” says the Phillies’ TV guy, “Well there it is!!”

Paredes lets the bat go, a practiced trick that has him staring off at the flight of the ball sailing out over the field, the bat propped up against his back leg, upright in the dirt, like a tee.

Cameron Rupp comes up next, as the camera zooms in and Citizens Bank Park comes alive with the “wave,” ringing the park in repeating loops, in sight of a team hungry to get back to .500.

And on the second pitch: Rupp lines it up. Fastball. Down the middle. Meatball. Deep, deep, deep to left-field, and it’s gone for a back-to-back home run, well over 50 rows of blue seats, beyond the wall more than I thought was possible.

Rupp rounds the bases, Maikel Franco hand-drums on Freddy Galvis’ head like a bongo, and I’m listening to the drum solo from Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock ‘69, the perfect synced up soundtrack. It all feels right.

“I can’t understand why they don’t wear these uniforms all year…” says the Philly TV guy, whose name I should probably have learned by now.

Craig Counsell meanwhile looks sullen in the Brewers’ dugout, the Phillies have just scored a season-high five runs in an inning. It’s 8-0. They’ve crept back up in the standings, to the point where that hot April may not be the fluke it was reported to be.

And the walls. Forest-green, padded, defeated. They tried to keep out Tommy Joseph. Just kept him in the field of play. An inch shy. But they took a beating today, their pride checked with Paredes and Rupp pushing past like the Kool-Aid man, a giant hole-in-the-wall serving up summer-time home runs in a historic Philly afternoon.

And maybe these walls will change sides. Doorways and not barriers. With another brick today in the wall of a rising Phillies rebuild.

 

 

Previously:

5th Inning: PHI vs. MIL

9th Inning: ATL vs. SFG

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

8th Inning: CHC vs. CIN

8th Inning: SFG vs. LAD

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