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26 Jul 2023

The battle for I-95

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July 26, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

The baseball teams representing Charm City and the City of Brotherly Love are tangling at Citizens Bank Park this week.

By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

ABOVE PHOTO: Bryce Harper gets tagged out. Photo by Webster Riddick

When you mention the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies and think of times when both teams were good simultaneously, you think of names like Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Schmidt, and Steve Carlton.

While the names have been changed, the three-game series between the Orioles and Phillies might make you think back to those days. For one thing, both teams are in playoff contention, with the Orioles currently in first place in the American League East.

And for another thing, both games have been a battle, complete with last-minute heroics.

For example, coming into the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ first six batters — Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryson Stott — had been a combined 1-for-16 against Orioles pitching.

But they don’t call them the “Fightin’ Phils” for nothing. The Phillies’ offense rose from the dead and rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Orioles in a 4-3 walk-off thriller.

If anyone was going to start the rally, it was going to be Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper, who was 2-for-4 including a game-tying home run in the sixth. He singled to start the Phillies’ rally and scored the tying run when Bryson Stott hit a double off Orioles closer Yennier Canó.

Alec Bohm’s single scored Stott from third base and enabled the Phillies to come away with a much-needed win.

While the Phillies’ offense seemed to be a little off throughout most of the game, Phillies manager Rob Thompson praised the team for its composure, especially Bohm.

“He’s got a slow heartbeat,” Thomson said of Bohm’s game-winning single. “He seems to come through in those spots. He puts the bat on the ball and uses the entire field. When you do that, you’re going to get some base hits and drive some people in.”

For Bohm, it was just another day at the office. While the top of the order gets a lot of attention, other teams ignore the bottom of the order at their own peril.

“I was really trying to put the barrel (of the bat) on the ball because (Cano) is throwing side arm 97 (miles per hour). I was just trying to touch something honestly,” Bohm said. “No matter where we’re at in the lineup…We’re still good hitters.”

“We’re definitely a resilient group,” Harper said. “The bottom half of our lineup swung the ball really well tonight. On any given night it could be anybody … it takes all 26 guys on that field, and we were able to win that game with our whole lineup and our bullpen.”

On the mound, Taijuan Walker had another decent outing for the Phillies despite not figuring into the decision He allowed just two runs on six hits with four strikeouts on 104 pitches and did enough to keep the team in the game.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Trea Turner, right, reacts to being tossed by umpire Will Little, center, as manager Rob Thomson, left, comes out to talk about the issue during the baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Monday, July 24, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Orioles won 3-2. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

“(Walker) competes. He really does,” Thomson said. “He doesn’t want to come out of the game. …I thought he got better as the game went on. The plate was moving around him early in the game and his pitch count really got up. His pitch count was over 60 pitches and to end up giving us what he gave us was really remarkable. He really settled and did a really good job for us.”

The Orioles took a 1-0 in the top of the second on an RBI double by Austin Hays that scored designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle, who had singled to begin the inning. After Walker walked O’s centerfielder Colton Cowser to load the bases, he retired the next three hitters and kept Baltimore from breaking the game open.

“Today wasn’t pretty at all, but we got the job done,” Walker said. “I was able to get out of it with the one run, which was huge. I kept the team in there for us to get the win in the ninth. That was the goal in that situation is to limit the damage.”

In the third inning, The Orioles increased their lead to 2-0 on a two-out RBI double by Orioles second baseman Adam Frazier that scored Mountcastle, who reached on another single. The inning ended when Frazier, trying to stretch his double into a triple, was tagged out at third base by Bohm at third base on a throw from Stott.

The Phillies cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by centerfielder Johan Rojas that scored Bohm, who led off the inning with a double to left field. The Phillies had three chances to push home another run, but Orioles pitcher and former Phillie Kyle Gibson retired Kyle Schwarber on a pop fly to third baseman Jordan Westburg and got ground outs by Trea Turner and Harper to end the inning.

Harper tied the game on a solo home run into the right field seats. It was his fifth of the year. Despite giving up the homer, Gibson did a good job of keeping the Phillies from doing any serious damage during his six innings on the mound. He allowed two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Cionel Perez seals the deal and gets the win for his team. Photo by Webster Riddick

The Orioles took a 3-2 lead in the eighth in on a solo home run by first baseman Ryan O’Hearn off Phillies relief pitcher Matt Straham. But the Phillies would come back in the ninth to win it.

While the Phillies’ ability to perform end-of-game heroics was great to see for the team and for winning pitcher Yunior Marte, starter Christopher Sanchez would have appreciated some more run support on Monday to avoid a no-decision.

Sanchez (0-3), had a solid outing that in which he allowed four hits, gave up no walks, and had eight strikeouts. Unfortunately, two of those hits were Orioles home runs courtesy of Westburg and Mountcastle.

When he left the game after the seventh, Sanchez was trailing 2-1. He was let off the hook for the loss when Nick Castellanos’s RBI single tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth.

But in the end, an RBI double from centerfielder Colton Cowser that scored Mountcastle while closer Craig Kimbrell was on the mound put the Phillies on the short end of a 3-2 loss and spoiled the best outing of Sanchez’s young career.

“Sanchez pitched great. (Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs) called a great game and (Sanchez) leaned on his changeup and slide. He located his fastballs. It’s the best outing of his career,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson. “He was really, really good. He kept them off-balance. He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to win.”

It was the Phillies’ fifth loss in their last six games. This loss was especially tough for the Phillies’ offense because it was a career-best for Sanchez.

“(Sanchez) has been throwing the ball really well,” said Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper. “I think he’s had a couple of outings where we haven’t scored for him. You can’t take anything away from Sanchez because he threw the ball really well and gave us an opportunity to win.”

If anything, Sanchez is proving that he is the Phillies’ fifth starter without any shadow of a doubt because he has managed to keep games close enough to allow the offense to get going.

“It’s very satisfying to have that role, but there’s still work to be done and I’m not going to stop here,” Sanchez said through Phillies team interpreter Diego Ettedgui.

The best chance the Phillies had to pull out game one of this series was in the bottom of the eighth inning when centerfielder Johan Rojas hit an infield single, and leftfielder Kyle Schwarber walked to put men at first and second with nobody out.

But Edmundo Sosa hit a sharp line drive that was snagged by third baseman Ramon Urias who doubled up Rojas. The Phillies challenged the call through instant replay, but the call was upheld.

The loss was also personally frustrating for Phillies shortstop Trea Turner would be a gross understatement. He went 0-for-3 at the plate, committed two errors, was booed by Phillies fans, and was ejected by home plate umpire Will Little for throwing his equipment.

“I thought the pitch was down. (Little) said it was a good pitch. It’s either a ball or a strike. Usually, when they say it’s a good pitch, it’s usually a ball,” Turner said. “I’m just going back and forth with him. I threw my stuff back to the dugout and he told me not to do that. I told him I can throw my stuff back to the dugout if I want …I’ve said a lot worse and not get ejected.”

The Phillies and Orioles play the rubber game of this three-game series tonight at 6:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park. To see what happens, check it out on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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