TOP OF THE EIGHTH: PHILLIES 9 (5) – 3 BRAVES
The plate appearance statlines for the Phillies, in tonight’s 8th inning in Atlanta:
0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1.
Four runs came across with that. And a lead bumped up to 9-3. They batted around (or nearly around), without a single hit. No slugging. A team average lower than it had been. But four runs. And the strangest, least skilled, most lucky, peculiar, pathetic, goofy, slow, inane big inning of the year. A novelty frame, no home runs or hits, two teams stuck in the N.L. East basement, a quiet Turner Field playing witness to a baseball malfunction, gremlins inside the gloves and the dog days of summer melting all hope for the home team.
Things fall apart, indeed.
The Phillies sent all 9 batters to the plate in T8 and none of them got a hit. It’s the first time Philly has done that since July 17, 1992
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 31, 2016
Chip Caray and Joe Simpson slog through the play calls up in the broadcast booth, sinking deep into the blues. The home ballpark seeing its last days pass by sadly, unenjoyed and winless. The fans still left looking only for a close game, a fair shake, something respectable to mark the occasion–a promotional night, for the 25th anniversary of the ’91 Atlanta Braves, the N.L. Champs.
Didn’t quite work out that way. An eddy of baserunners, swirling around the infield, scoring by hook or by crook, slow trots home, passing Go on every roll.
Tyler Goeddel comes up first for the Phils. Hunter Cervenka brings him to a full count, a long at-bat, and the final pitch sails inside for a ball. Goeddel on to first.
Freddy Galvis knocks a hard bunt down the line, Goeddel forced out at second. One down. Cervenka takes a deep breath. Taylor Featherson (who?) steps up and takes a walk. There’s a low hum in the ballpark. Almost no noise. Everyone sitting still like statues. Cervenka keeps stepping off the mound. Throws a lazy pick-off toss over to first. Atlanta’s pitching coach springs out of the dugout, strides out to the mound with the catcher joining.
“Oh my fuggin’ god,” he says. “If I’m not bored out of my mind.” And I’m not sure if it’s me yelling aloud or that’s really him.
“I love baseball, but please. Make it stop. Let me go home. It’s like being stuck all night in an airport. This is horrible. The fans dead quiet. The final score meaningless. Please. Don’t let this drag. No more. No más. ” I’m yelling at the screen now, groaning like it’s an hours-long traffic jam, waiting for some sort of action, anything, a play that never came.
Cesar Hernandez comes up, draws a 3-0 count, and the Phillies work a double-steal. Cervenka with a near panic attack on the mound, drenched in sweat, no idea how to hold the runners on. He walks Hernandez.
“UGH….” says Chip Caray, to Joe Simpson.
“That’s one way of putting it.”
That sound Chip Caray @kapaya1234 made when Hunter Cervenka walked in a run was classic.
— Michael Buchanan (@voiceoflg) July 31, 2016
Odubel Herrera walks. Galvis trots home. Taps the plate. Jogs into the dugout. 6-3 Phils. Yikes.
“Either Cervenka isn’t on the same page as to what the indicator is, or he just flat out can’t see the signs. That’s the only thing I can think of. Recker’s putting down fingers. Just shake your hand in the form of an ‘S’: throw a strike!”
And the inning…. drags…. on. And on. And on. Ryan Weber jogs in from the bullpen. Maikel Franco scorches a ground ball to third, shot off the glove of Adonis Garcia. Ruled an error. Another run scores.
Ryan Howard steps up, batting an impossible .169 on the year, and hits into the shift to second. Finally a second out…(?) and Aybar bobbles it. Another error, an earned one. The whole crowd cringing. The dugout cringing. The broadcast crew cringing, almost crying.
Frowns and wet eyes around the infield. This is rough.
“It’s been said in this booth before,” says one half of the broadcast pair. “The bases are loaded, and, I wish I was too…”
walk, walk, walk, walk, error, error
lovely inning thus far
— Dayton from Nebraska (@BravesAmerica) July 31, 2016
Aaron Altherr get plunked in the back on the first pitch he sees. Another run scores. The crowd boos, the saddest of all boos, weary and half-hearted. Scattered around the ballpark. The crowd anaesthetized. 9-3 Phillies up.
It’s the last baseball year for Turner Field, an Olympic year, a week before Rio, calling to mind the great games of ’96, Atlanta’s own worldwide shine. Sun-stained and faded. An 8th inning for the nightmare reel. The dream of the ’90s is alive in
Portland Atlanta. This, more than anything else, is what baseball sadness feels like. Heartache. It hurts to watch.
But with a sudden appearance of skill, the Braves turn two on a bouncing ball up the middle, a flip to second, a turn and a whip to first.
“….and so the nightmare,” Chip Caray says, “is over….”
Two more months to go, pal. Hang in there.
Previously (a happier read):