(Photo Credit: Political Journal)
By Ted Gay – @TedG63
When Brandon Phillps was signed by the Red Sox, I thought it was a no impact move. I saw him at his best when he was with Cincinnati, and I believed he was a shadow of that player now. It was sad. An old man, his skills deteriorated, playing in a dilapidated ballpark in a dying New England mill town. It would end with him designated for assignment, reduced to going out on anything but his terms.
During the season I read posts touting Phillips’ prospects for returning to the show. I scoffed. If he had anything left in the tank, he would be in the big leagues instead of AAA. When the rosters expanded, and Phillips was not added I felt vindicated.
Then Phillips returned to the majors. I thought he would emulate Royce Clayton when he joined the 2007 Sox; a washed-up veteran who was very popular and whose very presence in the dugout during the playoffs would help the team. Clayton got his final six plate appearances with the Sox scoring a run without getting a hit. He did get a ring, a nice capper to the career of a good clubhouse guy.
Alex Spier, during his half inning in the NESN booth on Tuesday, said he expected Phillips to play on Wednesday. When Alex Cora posted his spring training line up the next morning, it made sense that Phillips would get his last few at-bats in a National League stadium in a game that meant much more, and was taken far more seriously, by the Sox opponents.
The Red Sox started Hector Velasquez, better known in his hometown of Ciudad Obregon as the Mexican Pomeranz, who did Hector Velasquez things in the first inning digging the outgunned Sox a 2-0 hole. In the bottom of the second, against Braves ace, Mike Foltynewicz Phillips worked a walk and went to third when Rafael Devers singled. Brock Holt grounded to Lucas Duda. Phillips ran halfway down the line and stopped. Duda, not confident that throwing behind Phillips would get an out or save a run, stepped on first, as Phillips broke for home beating Duda’s throw. Lousy baserunning has bitten the Red Sox several times this season. Sox fans reacted to Phillips’ smart base running like they had tasted fine wine after years of living on bilge water.
In the eighth when the Red Sox, in a season where they have come back from the dead more than a soap opera heroine, Phillips hustled down the line to reach on an error in the middle of a six-run frame. Then, after Brandon Workman, who proved his post-season bonafides by pitching the eighth inning of the 2013 World Series Game Six, destroyed them by yielding a Freddie Freeman bomb to relinquish the lead, Phillips, with Andrew Benintendi on board, hammered a pitch sending the ball deep into the left field bleachers, and finishing his swing by thrusting his chest out resembling Hulk Hogan hulking up.
I realized Brandon Phillips has to be on our postseason roster. He will become another member of Cora’s swiss army knife bench, able to play three positions, exhibiting a high baseball IQ on the basepaths, the ability to hit with power and remain unruffled in pressure situations. He has a .333 postseason batting average, higher than many other current Sox.
To make a spot Rafael Devers needs to be left off of the roster. Yes, Devers has pop in his bat, but did you see how far Phillips hit that ball off the closer of a first place team in a must-win game for the Braves? Outside of the possible exception of power hitting, Phillips is better at fielding, running, and hitting for average. I can see number 0 warming up at third base before Game 3 at Wrigley Field.
Putting Phillips on the roster will necessitate carrying 12 hurlers, giving them eight pitchers in the bullpen, which should be enough, even for the Sox.
Maybe, over the next three and a half weeks we will find out that this was Phillips’ last flourish, but, for now, in a dream season, Brandon Phillips has given us another reason to believe.
ICYMI: BENNY & THE BETTS PODCAST (EP. 78)
SOX SWEEP THE BRAVES!
WHERE DOES PHILLIPS FIT? 3B? 1B?
PITCHING MATCHUPS VS. HOUSTON
CAN THE YANKEES BEAT OAKLAND?
Also available on iTunes!https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/benny-and-the-betts-podcast/id1434494214