Jeez, that sure looked familiar.
The Phillies fell behind early. They fought back and tied the score with the help of the long ball. Then Bryce Harper clubbed a majestic home run to dead center with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to give then a 7-6 win over the Pirates.
Yeah, all the elements that have distinguished this wildly entertaining season were on full display for the crowd of 31,388 at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. It was like a summer rerun on an evening with a distinct nip of autumn in the air. Only the dramatis personae had changed.
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On the first day after assuring they would have all home games in the first round of the Wild Card Series beginning next Tuesday, the Phillies rested. At least, most of the starters did. Edmundo Sosa, Cristian Pache, Jake Cave, Rodolfo Castro, Garett Stubbs all were elevated to prominent roles in the cast.
Stubbs and Sosa homered to get the Phillies back in it, setting the stage for Harper to electrify the crowd one more time before the playoffs start.
More takeaways from the first of five tune-ups before the results start to matter again:
• Ranger Suarez started for the Phillies and gave up six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of his last regular season outing. Obviously, that’s not good. “I’m just mad at myself,” her said through translator Diego Ettedgui. “You don’t want to give a performance like that to anyone. And you want to finish the regular season strong. But tomorrow you turn the page.”
Past isn’t always prologue. But it’s worth noting that in his final start of the 2022 season he lasted three innings and gave up six runs on seven hits. Then, in the postseason, had had a 1.23 earned run average in three starts and two relief appearances.
• Reliever Orion Kerkering made his second big league appearance and did nothing to hurt his chances of being on the postseason roster even though he opened the season at Class A Clearwater and despite giving up a walk and a hit along with two strikeouts.
“The thing that I really thought was interesting was when he got the (pitch clock) violation, when he started up before the hitter was engaged with him, it didn’t affect him whatsoever,” said manager Rob Thomson. “He came back and threw two strikes and struck the guy out, so that shows me something about his poise and focus.”
That came after a single and a walk put runners at first and second with one out. He then struck out Jack Suwinski. With a 1-1 count on Liover Peguero, the batter was awarded an automatic ball. But Peguero then looked at two strikes to end the inning.
In the process, he earned his first big league win.
“Disgusting,” said Stubbs, the catcher, shaking his head in admiration.
• Reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who had had an inconsistent season, pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday. While his overall earned run average is 3.83, he’s allowed just one run in his last six outings for a 1.29 ERA in those games.
“He dialed it up,” said Thomson. “It’s just strike-throwing. Hopefully we’re on an upward trend here.”
• Not only was Stubbs’ three-run homer in the fourth inning his first of the season and not only did it get the Phillies back in the game after they fell behind 5-0, it didn’t escape anyone’s notice that it came after he seemed to be having a good time during the previous night’s clinching celebration.
A really, really, really good time.
So good that the first postgame question he got Wednesday night was how he felt when he woke up that morning.
“I felt great, actually,” he said with a laugh. “All it took (to hit his first homer) was a bunch of Champagne drinking all night. And there it was. It was fun to get a win after all the celebrations. I think my friends would tell you that I like to have a good time. Hopefully we get to do a lot more of that in October. I love popping Champagne and I think the rest of the guys in here do, too.”
Some of his teammates sent him videos Wednesday morning about what they thought he being seeing behind the plate later. “A bunch of baseballs just being thrown at me,” he explained. “It was pretty funny.”
At Xfinity Live! after the clubhouse celebration, though, he did not ride the mechanical bull, unlike at least one of his teammates. “If we win the World Series, you can find me on the bull,” he promised.
Said Thomson: “Everyone pulls for Stubby. He’s a great teammate, one of the best I’ve ever been around. He’s just there to help everybody. To help the pitchers. To keep everybody happy. To keep the energy level up. He’ll do anything to help anyone.”