By Bill Campbell
Millville Night in Philly
On Tuesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park it was declared “Millville Night at the Phillies.” Red T-shirts colored the evening. Michael Santiago, the mayor of Millville, New Jersey, was there. The town’s high school marching band was on hand to perform before the game. The Millville Choral Ensemble presented its version of the National Anthem before the game. A crowd of 41,959 was on its feet as native son, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels took the field, giving his a long standing ovation that Trout later said gave him “chills.” The contingent from Millville led the crowd to get to its feet when Trout’s name was announced and they kept up the cheers throughout the game. But that crowd was left feeling a little disappointed because, despite the enthusiastic reception, Trout went 1 for 5 with a single and a strikeout and played no part in the final outcome of the game. In truth, Mike Trout is in the midst of a tough stretch hitting 146 in his last 13 games, with 16 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. Trout grounded out to shortstop in the first before lining a single to center in the fourth off of Cliff Lee. He clapped his hands after rounding first and fans cheered loudly, likely hoping for even more from the young third baseman. Trout struck out swinging in the sixth, reached on third baseman Cody Asche’s fielding error in the seventh and flied out to right in the ninth. Lee should have won the game and likely would have but for three Asche errors in the span of eight Los Angeles Angels batters. Those mistakes led to 4 Angels homers in the sixth inning and a 4-3 loss for the Phillies. After the game, Trout said, “I felt good at the plate, but I missed some pitches.” But it was Asche who was most rueful, admitting, “I messed up. We’re in [this] situation because of myself.” Manager Ryne Sandberg noted in an understatement, “The kid had a tough night at third base.” He also said that Cliff Lee had been “outstanding, he pitches shutouts with that kind of stuff” and he was right. “These things will happen, there is still work to be done,” Sandberg continued. Lee probably should have and would have gone all nine innings and won it if it hadn’t been for those mistakes. The Phillies have held leads in 26 of their last 37 games this season but those leads have resulted in only 17 wins. Not long ago, Cliff Lee with a two-run lead used to mean a win. Not so anymore, especially when there are glaring fielding errors by young players on whom the team is purportedly building its future.
Raul Ibanez also returned to town with the Angels after a three-year stint with the Phils that ended in 2011. I was sorry to see him leave at the time when he was sent to the Yankees but he’s continued to contribute, both in New York and then in Seattle before heading to LA. The home crowd here also welcomed him back with loud applause and those familiar shouts of “Rah-oool” when he came up to bat. The forty-one-year-old Ibanez has the reputation of being one of the best people in baseball. He’s playing with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout out in LA now, among others. His old Philly fans still wish him well.
The Phils have a busy weekend ahead. The Angels left town taking two wins with them and the Cincinnati Reds will be here for games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This week the team recalled infielder, Cesar Hernandez, from Double A Reading and he will be activated to play shortstop, second and third base. He is only 23 and was sent to Double A in mid-April where he has been playing well. Freddy Galvis is out, possibly with a fractured clavicle, and will miss at least 6 weeks. Ruben Amaro said earlier this week that closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had thrown only 21 pitches last Friday and Saturday but was “unavailable” on Sunday, had some back and neck issues that interfered with his throwing arm that day. The game ended with the Phillies bullpen blowing another lead and losing 5-4 to the New York Mets in 11 innings. Amaro said, “Obviously we could have won a lot more games had our bullpen been a little bit tighter and we had gotten a little bit more consistency out of those seven, eight, nine innings.” Another management understatement. Papelbon is 33 and, after pitching relief in both regular and postseason innings, his arm may be beginning to wear. The team owes him $13 million this season and next and his contract contains a vesting option for 2016. He’s been very reliable this year – 1.76 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 11-for-12 saves. So it’s a concern when he can’t step in to assure a win after throwing 21 pitches in two days. Maybe there’s more to this story.
In the NFL draft, the Eagles chose Louisville outside linebacker, Marcus Smith, with their 26th overall pick. The Birds appear to have decided that they need a pass-rusher, someone to support the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. They came to see Smith as that guy. In a 3-4 defense, the team needs two outside linebackers who can either drop into coverage or rush the passer. The linebacker’s ability to do either can keep offenses off-kilter and disguise the pass-rusher. The Eagles did not have that luxury on defense last season and that lack dictated their plays. Coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, seem pleased to have nabbed Smith in this draft. Let’s see how it works out. The team also drafted the following players: Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff; Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins; Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart’ Stanford safety Ed Reynolds and Wisconsin nose tackle Beau Allen. Believe it or not, folks, the Eagles Rookie Mini-Camp starts today at Lincoln Financial Field through Sunday.
They’re running the Preakness in Maryland tomorrow with the favorite, California Chrome, riding with his Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Victor Espinoza, in the saddle. Chrome, the colt whose owners were so roundly laughed at for investing in him that they named themselves “Dumb Ass Partners”, has two lines to the legendary Swaps through his dam’s pedigree. His trainer, Art Sherman, was the exercise rider for Swaps more than fifty years ago and had the first Derby win of his life with Chrome two weeks ago. Espinoza rode the colt brilliantly at Churchill Downs, holding him till the half turn before letting him loose to fly to a four-length win in a memorable race. The Preakness has a way of separating the men from the boys so we should be watching as the field leaves the starting gate on Saturday afternoon.