J.P. Crawford is an impact player. There. If no one has said it, there it is.
The long-awaited return of J.P. Crawford ended today when he strode into the batter’s box to leadoff the home first. The Phillies’ top prospect had been sidelined with a left oblique strain he suffered during spring training. During the past few weeks, he had been working out at the Carpenter Complex and recently completed his rehab stint with the XST squads, when he played the field in back-to-back, nine-inning games. Today, he was the Threshers’ designated hitter and leadoff batter.
Crawford took his stance in the batter’s box and patiently waited for a pitch to his liking. Getting ahead 2-0, he was able to take a called strike on a pitcher’s pitch. Finally, with the count 3-1, he lined a pitch over the second baseman into right center field.
When Andrew Pullin grounded a single to right, Crawford was in scoring position. But they advanced no further.
Crawford came to bat again in the third inning after Chase Harris lined a leadoff single to left. Harris was balked to second and Crawford had a runner in scoring position. He did not disappoint as he worked the count full then lifted a ball through the 6 mph breeze onto the right field berm. The 2-run home run gave the Threshers the lead. When Crawford made contact, the sound left no doubt that the ball would reach the grass.
One out later, Andrew Knapp doubled to left. Dylan Cozens followed with a hard hit ball to the first baseman. The ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. He tossed his glove to the pitcher covering the base, but the ball came out and trickled away toward the stands. Knapp kept running and scored. The first baseman was charged with an error.
Crawford reached base again in the fifth inning when he walked with one out. A wild pitch allowed J.P. to move into scoring position. Pullin took advantage and drove Crawford in with a ground single to center.
Up to this point, David Whitehead had been dealing. He was throwing his fastball 89-92 keeping ahead of most batters and keeping them off balance. He had allowed only 3 base runners through five innings and one of those had been erased by Knapp on an attempted steal. Whitehead had struck out the side in the fifth, five in a row including the previous inning, and had 6 Ks after five innings.
Whitehead gave up a couple singles to start the sixth. After recording his seventh strike out, he threw perhaps his only mistake of the day and it landed on the right field berm. He allowed a double to left and hit a batter before retiring the final two batters. I don’t have a pitch count, but David looked like the humidity might be getting to him. In any event, this was his last inning. His final line – 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. Edubray Ramos came on in relief.
Crawford batted again and struck out looking in the seventh inning. This appeared to be his last at bat, and some of the handful of people in the stands made for the exits.
The Threshers’ tacked on some insurance runs in the eighth. Drew Stankiewicz singled to right with one out. He advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw. Devin Lohman reached when he was hit by a pitch. Harris walked to load the bases for Crawford with two outs. (OMG, who could ask for more drama on his return to real baseball!) J.P. was hit by a pitch. (Sigh, well it’s an insurance run.) Then Pullin and Knapp both walked and the lead was four. The Manatees decided to bring in a RHP to face Cozens with the wind having shifted to right. Cozens hit a hard drive to right that almost got over the right fielder, Clint Coulter, who had to leap to catch the ball.
Now, Ramos had finished two innings (with 3 Ks), and Ulises Joaquin was warming up to save the game. When the save opportunity evaporated with the scoring of the seventh run, Cody Forsythe got up and hurriedly warmed up. At the completion of the home eighth, Forsythe exited the bullpen and started across the warning track. Meanwhile, Ramos had taken the mound. Coach Legg, met with the home plate umpire and waved Forsythe back into the pen.
Ramos threw one pitch and retired the batter on a fly ball to center. So, here comes Legg to lift Ramos and bring in the left-handed Forsythe to face two right-handed batters. He faced three as he walked the middle batter, but the game ended with a 7-3 victory.
Crawford was involved in every scoring innng. He went 2-3 with 2 R, 3 RBI, HR, BB, HBP, K. (See, impact player.) Pullin went 3-4 with 2 RBI, BB. Knapp went 2-4, with 2B, R, RBI, BB, 2K. The 4-9 batters in the line up went 3-23 with 2B (Mora), 4 R, BB, 0K. Cozens stole his 4th base, Pullin his first.
Note: The apparent confusion over who would pitch the ninth inning is no big deal. Although, there was a similar apparent disconnect Tuesday night. As I reported, Colin Kleven had reached 80 pitches after four innngs. There had been bullpen action during the fourth. Kleven is not a pitcher who delays coming out to the mound. There was a noticeable delay to start the fifth. The umpire was even watching the action in the bullpen, waiting for the pitcher to step onto the warning track (to start the clock, I guess), when Kleven exited the dugout to pitch the fifth. Also not a big deal. But on consecutive days …
The box score for this game is here.