Friday morning’s game signaled the end of the Phillies’ 2014 instructional league season. A few players may move on to their winter league teams, most will return home and continue working out until they return to Clearwater to participate in spring training for the 2015 season.
The Phillies were taking on the Blue Jays from neighboring Dunedin. Attendance was a little higher this morning than it had been all week. We were ready to watch as many as nine pitchers take the mound for each team as they prepared to break for the winter. I don’t think any of us had the slightest inkling that Jesse Biddle would be taking the mound and that he would pitch two innings.
But, before I recount today’s game, let me briefly report on Thursday’s game. The Phillies played the Pirates and had fought back to tie the game at 7-7 after 6 innings. I had to leave at this point to and missed the end of the Phillies 8-7 victory in a game that lasted over 3 hours. Elniery Garcia started and was not as sharp as he had been in his previous outing on Monday. His fast ball started out at 87-89 mph through the first dozen pitches before he finally reached 90-91 mph. He walked his first batter but induced two ground balls to escape the inning. However, in spite of two strike outs through his next two innings, his pitches were hit repeatedly as the Pirates scored 4 runs on 7 hits. Victor Arano and Tanner Kiest pitched the middle three innings and the Pirates picked up 3 additional runs on 5 more hits. John Zgardowski pitched a hitless seventh inning although he had to pitch around a lead off fielding error by an infielder.
Offensively, the Phillies were stymied until the third inning when five consecutive batters reached base on 2 walks and 3 infield hits to score two runs. They picked up another run in the fifth inning with two singles sandwiched around a hit batter. They tied the game in the sixth inning on a fielding error, 3 walks, and 3 base hits. The Pirates rolled the inning with two outs and the bases loaded. After I left, the Phillies scored the go ahead run on a triple by Cristian Palacios and a sacrifice fly. When I left, Jan Hernandez had produced a solid 3-3 with a walk and 2 RBIs. Willians Astudillo had gone 1-2 with a double, a walk, and a run scored. For the game, Palacios was 2-3 with a double, triple, 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs.
Astudillo played 2 innings behind the plate before completing the afternoon at first base.
Now, back to Friday’s game and Jesse Biddle. His first pitch was a called strike, but he went on to walk the lead off batter on a 3-2 pitch. The runner stole second then advanced to third on a ground out. Biddle’s fast ball was 91-92 mph during the inning. He coaxed a fly ball to right on a 92 mph fast ball and was rewarded with a strike from the arm of Cristian Palacios that nailed the runner at the plate.
Biddle came out strong in the second inning and reached 93-94 mph with his fast ball. He retired the three batters he face on a strike out, a pop up, and a ground out to second on his second 94 mph fast ball of the inning. He had nice separation between his fast ball and his 74 mph curve ball. He also had an intermediate pitch around 81 mph. He threw 23 pitches in his two innings. His strike/ball ratio was 14/9, but 6 of his balls came in his first 8 pitches, so he finished strong throwing only 3 balls among his final 15 pitches.
The following innings saw a procession of pitchers throwing one solid inning after another. Matt Imhof, Brandon Leibrandt, Edubray Ramos, Nick Rodesky and Ranger Suarez each pitched an inning as the Phillies took a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. Sam Harris came on and walked his first batter and allowed a home run into the Tiki Bar to tie the game. Harris fought back with two strike outs before allowing back-to-back singles. Luis Encarnacion charged the second single, a sinking line drive, and deflected the ball toward center field. The base runner scored and a throwing error by Astudillo on the relay put the batter on third. Calvin Rayburn was brought in and got the final four outs.
On offense, the Phillies batted the minimum in 8 of the 9 innings. Cord Sandberg led off and struck out on a ball that got away from the catcher. He was ruled out on interference as the throw to first hit him in the back. Sandberg still became their first base runner with a lead off single in the fourth inning. However, he was caught stealing. The BIG inning occurred in the fifth. With one out, Astudillo doubled into the right center field gap. He moved to third on Encarnacion’s single to center and scored on a wild pitch. A single by either Chace Numata or Gregori Rivero moved the runner to third. Palacios drove him in with a single. However, that was it. With two on and one out, the Jays retired the next 14 Phillies, 7 via strike out (3 in the ninth) to secure the win. No one stood out as the offensive star, the Phils only managed 5 base runners on 5 hits, but Palacios did have the only RBI.
Astudillo played all nine innings at first base.
I spent an inning talking to Larry Andersen. I didn’t announce myself as a reporter, so I don’t feel right relating the conversation here. But, I did tell him that I noticed that he was here in October for the first time in three years. Then, I reminded him of a conversation we had during Phantasy Week where he stated that he would gladly leave the broadcasting booth to return to coaching young pitchers. And I further pointed out that his arrival in Clearwater coincided with that of Rafael Chaves, the recently hired minor league pitching instructor. Larry cleverly blamed his early arrival on his wife’s wanting to come down now rather than in January as they had done in previous years. So much for that scoop.
I have enjoyed preparing these reports for you. I appreciate the comments from those of you who like reading them. I am humbled by the number of views my reports garner. I look forward to doing this again next season. In the mean time, I’ll try to fill the void left by Brad’s departure and continue the AFL weekly reports he posted last year or maybe a daily link to the Scorpions’ box score. I tried pulling the box in the way he did for his daily reports during the regular season, but I haven’t mastered it yet.