The Yankees and Phillies game played a pretty good game last night, even if the team for which I was rooting ended up on the wrong end of the W/L column. But there was a sequence mid-game that had a huge impact on the result, with a few parts of the sequence that generally go unnoticed.
In the bottom of the 3rd, with the Phillies leading 3-2 and with a win probability of 67%, Andrew McCutchen led off with a ground ball single to 3rd base that Gio Urshela backhanded and made the throw to first base but McCutchen, due to part hustle, part speed, beat the throw for a single. More on this in a second…
After a Rhys Hoskins fly out, Bryce Harper hit a high bouncer to Yankees’ second baseman Tyler Wade, who – if he had thrown to 2nd base immediately – may have been able to turn a 4-6-3 double play. But McCutchen, seeing Wade’s momentum bringing him closer, stopped and backed up a little to postpone the tag that Wade had planned. That delay allowed Bryce Harper to reach first on a fielder’s choice.
J.T. Realmuto followed with a slow roller to 3rd base that Gio Urshela was not able to turn into an out. Yes, Realmuto runs well (for a catcher – it’s mandatory I add that) and he also hustles. But the reality is that Urshela makes fielding hard-hit balls to his backhand look so smooth and easy that we forget he isn’t a very good 3rd baseman, in spite of his reputation. If it’s hard hit to his backhand, he’s got it – if he needs to move and show range, as long as the batter hustles, he’s got a hit. Realmuto did.
Now with two outs, and with Harper on second and Realmuto on first, Phil Gosselin hit a deep drive to left-center field, scoring both runners. The main reason Realmuto was able to score from first was that he got a good walking lead, and was running at 100% at the crack of the bat, as he should have been with two outs.
The Phillies’ lead grew to 5-2 and their win probability stood at 83%.
To review: McCutchen hustled himself into a single, then he avoided a double play with smart base running. Realmuto hustled himself into a single and got some help from a 3rd baseman without much range (not a knock on him of course, not everybody is Matt Chapman) which cost the Yankees a shot at an out on a weakly batted ball. Then Realmuto displayed two subtle, but very important baserunning acts that led to him scoring from first on a double.
The result was a game situation that started as a game the Phillies would win two out of three times that ended as a situation that they would win more than four out of five times. All on plays that won’t show up in a traditional boxscore (but will so up in the players’ WAR).
Then Joe Girardi, quite uncharacteristically, used his biggest bullpen gun when he needed to by bringing in Hector Nerris in the 8th inning when Philadelphia’s win probability was 77%. This, as opposed to bringing Nerris in the previous day when the Phillies had a 98% win probability.
Girardi using his best relievers in mop-up duty is something Yankee fans are quite familiar with.
Of course, there were a dozen or two other factors leading to the Phillies eventual 5-4 win, but the above was big.
I know you may be thinking, “So what? They’re professional players. They’re supposed to hustle and do that stuff.”
But many do not. Frankly, the guys doing the Yankee broadcast hardly noticed any of the above, to no one’s surprise.
It was a pleasure to watch good, sound, hardball being played even if it meant the team I was rooting for got beat. Because getting beat and losing are two different things.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
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