The top of the third inning of the Phillies vs. Brewers Wednesday matinee was a wild, mistake-filled affair.
As Rickie Weeks, the Brewers second baseman and leadoff hitter, stepped into the box to start the second inning against Phils starter Cliff Lee, CSN's play-by-play man Tom McCarthy took note of a stat that he tossed to his longtime broadcast partner Chris Wheeler.
The following short exchange is not verbatim, but it does capture the spirit of it:
McCarthy: Rickie Weeks led the NL with an extraordinary 754 plate appearances last year.
Wheeler: Wow, he must not have drawn many walks.
To be honest, I'm not sure if Wheels covered himself later, as I was distracted by my favorite almost three-year-old on the planet.
Of course, walks—and just about anything and everything that can happen to a hitter—counted as part of those plate appearances and Weeks did draw a respectable 76 of them.
He also fanned 184 times, but that's another story.
Now, I'm not one of Wheeler's biggest detractors and he certainly has them. In my mind, he knows the game of baseball inside and out, even if hardly a lovable figure.
He does deserve a mulligan here.
Anybody who is more or less speaking extemporaneously for three-plus hours a game is bound to want a few sentences back.
While Wheels' miscue stood out at the time, it may have ushered in the weirdest half-inning of the season.
Weeks followed by weakly cuing a ball off the end of the bat that rolled slowly just outside the first-base foul line. The second sacker never broke from the box as Ryan Howard waited patiently to see if the ball would roll into fair territory.
The ball just inched fair in front of the bag, and the Phils slugger alertly grabbed it and stepped on the bag for the first out.
The ballhawk that is center fielder Carlos Gomez followed with a routine pop-up to first base for out number two, bringing the red-hot Ryan Braun to the dish.
Braun lofted a pop-up that appeared to be foul just beyond first. Wilson Valdez camped under it but then made a miscue every bit as bad as Wheeler's speaking gaffe or Weeks' refusal to run to first on his cue shot. The ball clanked off the normally reliable infielder's glove just into fair territory.
Braun, who would have been on second base if he had been hustling, took first base with two outs.
Up stepped the massive and "massively hot" Prince Fielder, who doubled off the wall in left center. Braun, motoring like a man possessed, got a great jump and kept going, ignoring the stop sign of third base coach Ed Sedar (who is not an easy man to miss).
Braun got a major reprieve, as shortstop Jimmy Rollins' throw home was a little off-line and in a place where catcher Carlos Ruiz could not block the plate. With a heads-up slide to the third-base side of the plate, Braun made it home safely. A good throw would have nailed him by a half step or so.
With the lumbering Fielder on second, third baseman Casey McGehee singled sharply to right. First and third, right? With Fielder going nowhere, McGehee made too lazy a turn toward second base. A good throw by Ben Francisco hit cutoff man Ryan Howard, who made an easy tag of the Brewers' wandering third baseman for the final out.
When it was over, the top of the third produced two hits, an unearned run, three or four baserunning gaffes, a Little League-level fielding error and a bad mistake by a veteran broadcaster.
As I write, the Phils and Brewers are tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to Placido Polanco's three-run blast in the bottom of the sixth.
If it seems like this was the Phillies' first homer and first runs in weeks (no relation to Ricky), this writer had the same impression.
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