May 12, 2016
Late during the 10th and final game of the road trip, the Phillies appeared well on their way to squandering another prime opportunity. In the top of the 10th inning at Turner Field, Odubel Herrera was standing on third base after a lead-off triple, the final piece of a 4-for-4 night at the plate.
Odubel Herrera. Leadoff triple. 5th time on base tonight. Behold your golden god. pic.twitter.com/uy52b4zvAj— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 13, 2016
Then Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf failed to put the ball in play, and everyone watching in the Delaware Valley had to be thinking along the same lines: Here we go again.
Not so fast. Eventually, Cameron Rupp came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Rupp plated all three runners with a double into the left-center field gap, and the Phillies took the rubber match over the Atlanta Braves, 7-4. They’ll head back home to Citizens Bank Park with a 20-15 record after a 5-5 road trip.
“We don’t ever quit,” Rupp said on the broadcast right after the game. “We had a little scuffle there in the seventh inning, but we came back and got ‘em.”
The Phillies’ affinity for playing (and winning) one-run games has been well-documented. So with Vince Velasquez cruising through six innings of one-hit, shutout ball and sitting on a four-run lead that he helped create with a couple of hits, you knew something could go wrong (even if it didn’t seem likely).
And the bottom half of the seventh, went wrong, very wrong. The Braves’ first four hitters got on base against Velasquez, three of which scored on Gordon Beckham’s bases-clearing double.
Herrera, who got on base all five times, upped his OBP to .450 on the season. That number is good for second in the majors, only behind Chicago’s Dexter Fowler.
These Phillies have won more in the season’s first 35 games than anyone could have reasonably expected, but it sure does come the hard way. Prior to today, the Phillies’ last seven wins were of the one-run variety. Before the disastrous seventh inning, Velasquez looked sharp with five Ks and only one hit.
The loss makes the Braves’ record at home a cool 2-17 in the final season of Turner Field. That’s Sixers territory, and if the Phillies are going to remain competitive, you have to figure they’ll need to clean up against their struggling division rivals.
This weekend, the Phillies will come back home for a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds, who swept them to open the season (Yes, the Phils are 20-12 after being swept by a bad team to kick things off).
“It’s going to be a happy flight,” Rupp said.
Friday will mark the beginning of a nine-game homestand for the Phillies, who have played 22 games on the road, tops in all of MLB. Jeremy Hellickson (2-2) will be on the mound.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann