Harper ejected, Phillies stumble out of the gate in series opener vs. Rockies

Phillies Bryce harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper argues with second base umpire Vic Carpazza, right, as manager Rob Thomson, back right, listens after Harper was ejected for arguing after striking out to end the top of the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Friday, May 24, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As their flight landed in Denver for their weekend series, the Philadelphia Phillies likely maintained the same win-now mentality that they have exhibited over the first 51 games of the season. Show up and play ball. Simple enough.

Signs came early on that Friday evening’s affair against the Colorado Rockies would be a bit more of a devious trail to navigate than a nice beachside stroll. A trail that would end in a 3-2 loss for the Phillies in 11 innings. On the season, the Phillies now stand 4-4 in games that go into extras.

Bryce Harper Ejected in the First Inning

Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper talks to umpire Vic Carapazza, right, after home plate umpire Brian Walsh ejected Harper for arguing a strikeout against Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Ty Blach to end the top of the first inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto were quickly dispatched by Rockies’ starting pitcher Ty Blach to start off the game for the Phillies.

With two outs, Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate, missing a first-pitch cutter across the middle-outside part of the plate. Down 0-1, Harper was then called looking on a sinker that found itself just off the lower inside corner of the plate. A pitcher’s pitch, Harper disagreed with home plate umpire Brian Walsh on the call before stepping back into the box for the 0-2 count.

Harper then got rung out on a curveball from Blach to end the inning before tossing his helmet in frustration on home plate. Tossing the helmet resulted in an automatic fine for Harper, who most recently was fined $5,000 for throwing his helmet in the stands in 2023. After the fine, Harper attempted to continue the conversation with Walsh on the location of the second pitch when Walsh ejected Harper instead of listening further.

As a result of the early ejection, Johan Rojas entered the game for the Phillies, batting third for Harper, while the Phillies shifted Alec Bohm, Whit Merrifield, and Cristian Pache to first base, third base, and left field, respectively.

A Relatively Quiet Affair

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Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto drives in a run with a triple in the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

After the early-inning extracurriculars settled, both starting pitchers got to work for their respective teams. Ty Blach kept the Phillies off the base path until the top of the fourth inning when J.T. Realmuto recorded their first hit of the day, continuing his 14-game hit streak with a single into center field.

It would not be until the fifth, however, that someone would break the Rocky Mountain ice. On a 1-0 count, Castellanos took a cutter on the inside half of the plate, driving it into center field to give the Phillies the early 1-0 lead.

Two batters later, Edmundo Sosa lined a low sinker from Blach into the left field stands, increasing the Phillies’ lead to 2-0.

Meanwhile, Cristopher Sanchez would allow a baserunner in all but the third inning but managed them well. It wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth inning, with a 2-0 lead, that Sanchez found himself in trouble on the mound. With one out on the inning, Hunter Goodman reached base on a double into center field. Alan Trejo then reached base on a single into left field, though Goodman was forced to hold at third base. Goodman would not stay there for long, however, as Ezequiel Tovar singled into center field to score Goodman, cutting the Phillies’s lead to one.

Sanchez returned to the mound to start the bottom of the sixth inning before eventually getting into trouble and turning the ball over to Orion Kerkering out of the bullpen. Kerkering and Jeff Hoffman would combine to pitch 2.2 innings of relief, allowing one hit to bridge the gap to the ninth inning for the Phillies in what was becoming a very quiet, fast-moving contest.

A Pinch-Hit Home Run and Odd Extra Innings

Colorado Rockies pinch hitter Jacob Stallings gestures as he circles the bases after hitting a solo home run off Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher José Alvarado in the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With a 2-1 lead to work with, Jose Alvarado worked his way out to the mound in search of his 10th save of the season. Combining his cutter and sinker, working primarily on the inside and upper portions of the plate, Alvarado struck out Jordan Beck to record the first out of the inning. Hunter Goodman, after scoring the Rockies’ only run of the game so far, proved to be a bit more challenging of an out, but Alvarado won their full-count, seven-pitch battle on a 97.7 mph sinker.

With Trejo due up, the Rockies opted to go to their bench, bringing in Jacob Stallings as a pinch hitter. And he did not stall to tie up the game. Stallings took Alvarado’s first offering, a sinker middle-in, and drove it into left field to tie the game at 2-2, forcing extra innings and handing Alvarado his first blown save of 2024.

Moving into the 10th inning, the Phillies found themselves with Bryson Stott on second base and Whit Merrifield earning a one-out walk to have two runners on base. Kody Clemens then stepped up to the plate to pinch-hit for Pache, hitting a blooper into shallow left-center field to get on base. Stott, who was at risk of being doubled up if the ball was caught, could not advance past third on the play.

With the bases now loaded, Kyle Schwarber was due up at the plate. On a 2-2 count, Rockies’ pitcher Nick Mears laced in a curveball into the upper-inside corner of the plate to punch out Schwarber. Schwarber disagreed with the call in the moment, but the pitch was perfectly placed.

The Phillies’ disapproval of the umpiring would become a bit more noticeable during J.T. Realmuto’s at-bat. Realmuto check-swung at a 2-1 slider outside of the box, holding on to the swing. After an appeal to first base umpire Edwin Moscoso, however, it would be called a strike. Not only could frustration be seen from the typically level-headed Realmuto, but from several Phillies on the bench including Schwarber and manager Rob Thomson.

Now, rather than On the next pitch, with the bases loaded, Realmuto grounded out to first base to end the inning.

Jose Ruiz entered in relief in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Phillies with Brendan Rogers starting the inning on second base. Ruiz intentionally walked Eliaz Diaz before striking out Kris Bryant to get himself into a manageable situation early on. Ruiz worked Elehuris Montero into what could have been an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play ball to Stott at short, but Kody Clemens, who stayed in the ballgame to play second, missed the throw to first base, sending it all the way back to the cement fencing behind first plate.

Luckily, the ball bounced right back to Bohm at first base, preventing Rodgers from advancing any further than third on the misplay. Now, with runners on first and third, Ruiz dispatched Brenton Doyle on a fly ball to right field as the game entered the 11th inning.

With Realmuto starting the inning on second base for the Phillies, this would have been the spot in the game where Bryce Harper would have stepped up to the plate and likely been intentionally walked. Instead, due to his early ejection, it was Johan Rojas at the plate. Rojas was called out on strikes for the first out of the inning, setting the tone for a quick one-two-three inning for the Phillies in the top of the 11th.

Meanwhile, the Rockies took care of business against Gregory Soto in the bottom of the 11th. With Brenton Doyle on second base, Soto intentionally walked Jordan Beck to start the inning before loading the bases on a one-out walk to Ryan McMahon. Tovar, who at that point was 3-for-5 on the night, laced a single into left field to score Doyle from third, giving the Rockies a walk-off 3-2 victory over the hottest team in baseball.

Inside the Box and Looking Ahead

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Gregory Soto adjusts his cap after walking Colorado Rockies’ Ryan McMahon to load the bases in the 11th inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As a team, the Phillies combined for only seven hits across 11 frames of at-bats on the night. Their only two runs came off solo home runs from Nick Castellanos and Edmundo Sosa. Castellanos has now hit four home runs in the past 15 days, beginning to show signs of life out of his bat. Sosa, meanwhile, has proven to be a great fill-in for the injured Trea Turner. Over his last 11 games played, Sosa is batting .406 and is averaging one run scored per game on that stretch.

Despite a blown save from Alvarado and a loss for Soto, the Phillies’ bullpen continues to pitch well. As a combined unit, the bullpen allowed two runs over 5.0 innings on the evening, allowing five hits and three walks (two intentional) in the process. Jose Ruiz handled the high-leverage 10th inning with excellence, while Kerkering and Hoffman continued to prove their worth, earning holds for their work throughout the sixth to eighth innings.

The Phillies turn to Aaron Nola to right the ship on Saturday evening as he faces off against the Rockies’ Dakota Hudson in a 9:10 PM start.