Cinderella teams always have an early season game or two that shows true signs they might be for real.
The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies are probably the City of Brotherly Love's most famous Cinderella team. Expected to finish the season in last place, Jim Fregosi's boys got off to a torrid start, going 8-1. They were 15 and 5 on April 29.
The Phillies entered the eighth inning of that game with a 5-1 lead. But with Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffiled and Fred McGriff (My god, that lineup) on base, a Guillermo Velasquez single off Larry Anderson pulled the Padres within two. An out and a walk later, Bob Garen lifted a flyball to deep left field. Milt Thompson raced back. jumped and caught the ball just as it was going over the wall.
The Phillies had escaped the jam. They'd win the game and finish the month 17-5.
Almost two weeks later, Mariano Duncan slammed the Phillies to victory with a bases loaded jack off Lee Smith.
Last night felt like one of those games. The Phillies young ace Vincent Velazquez dominated the braves through six innings. The Phils had a 4-0 lead. Then the wheels came off. Atlanta chased Velazquez quickly and the game was tied. The Phils seemed lifeless until Odubel Herrera boomed a triple to lead off the inning. With two on and no out, the Phillies had a chance. Then the scuffling Maikel Franco struck out. Darin "Short Time" Ruf followed with another punch out. As an aside, I like Ruf a lot. It boggled my mind they didn't play him more two years ago. But he's looked terrible so far. It looked like the Phillies were going to go down meekly to the worst team in baseball.
Then Freddy Galvis walked and Cameron Rupp came through with a bases double.
I keep telling myself this is a 72-74-win team that - maybe - has played its way to 78 wins.
And we should be happy with that. But I find myself playing with the numbers. A negative 27 run differential can't lead to a winning record, can it? They can't keep playing so well (4-0) in extra innings, can they? There's no way they can keep up their 12-3 record in 1-run games, right? They can't win more than 75 games if they keep scoring an average of 3.28 runs a game.
But there's also the other side of the coin.
They've played the fewest home games in baseball. They have several young kids on the farm who could come in In their next 55 games, they play 33 contests against teams below .500. Since being swept to start the season, they've won seven of 10 series. Now they can avenge that opening series sweep.
Friday May 13: 7:05
Saturday May 14: 7:05
Sunday May 15: 1:35
Shane Finnegan (1-1, 4.15) vs Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.91)
Tim Adleman (1-0, 2.45) vs Aaron Nola (2-2, 3.13)
Dan Straily (1-1, 3.47) vs Adam Morgan (1-0, 3.94)
What to know about the Reds
Cincinnati has several long ball threats. Jay Bruce, Adam Duvall, Brandon Phillips and Eugenio Suarez each have six home runs. But the pitching staff has also given up a ton of long balls. Sixty-three to be exact. SIXTY-THREE! That's almost 2 a game. The bullpen should give the Phils a chance to score some runs.
Jeremy Hellickson has to start pitching better. Since his sterling performance to open the season, he's carried a 5.87 ERA. That said, he's been throwing strikes (62 percent) decently well and struck out more batters (31) than innings pitched (30.2). He needs to get just a bit better, though. His 11 walks in 30.2 innings needs to come down.
What we can't wait to see
Adam Morgan pitched well in his last start, tossing seven innings of four hit ball. He needs to have a second straight strong start. This is his first time pitching against the Reds, so who knows how he'll handle Joey Votto (my guess is at least one walk). The problem is that guys like Billy Hamilton (.318/.348/.545), Brandon Phillips (.290/.303/.516) and Zach Cosart (.296/.333/.556) rake against lefties. If Morgan can run a second straight decent-to-strong start, that will be good for the Phillies moving forward.