The clouds were ominous over Bright House Field this afternoon, rendering it less of a Bright House than it has been at this time almost each day during this glorious weather month. It wasn’t surprising, given that the Tampa team moved their spring training field to Port Charlotte hours away, that the local TB fans showed up in force for the game today between the Phils and the Rays. There is wiggle room for fans of opposing teams – we even welcomed a spring member of the Toronto Blue Jays fan club, known as The Jay Birds.
Cole Hamels was methodical today. Jim Thome was nimble at first base today. And then came the bottom of the 9th, when chessmaster Joe Maddon loaded the infield with five infielders after the Phils loaded the bases.
Miguel Abreu was due at the plate, wearing Jimmy Rollins’ #11, but otherwise bearing no resemblance to him. Magician Manuel pulled Hector Luna as the rabbit out of his hat to bat for Abreu, and Luna delivered a sharp base hit under the glove of one of the stacked infielders on the right side of the diamond plating pinch runner Tuffy Gosewich for the walk-off 2-1 victory.
Poor guy who walked out after the top of the 9th to beat the heat and the traffic missed the thrill of the walkoff, which is always great whether it’s spring, summer, or fall.
Don’t tell me that Spring Training games don’t matter to the 12-14 Phillies. Cholly pinch-ran Tuffy Gosewich for Brian Schneider after #23 doubled in the 9th, and pulled Abreu in favor of Luna. The Rays were 21-4 before coming in to today’s match-up. Joe Maddon takes every game seriously, as was evident by his strategizing in the bottom of the 9th today. Luna may have landed himself a more serious look with his walkoff hit today. For Manager Manuel, Spring Training is a combination of a player’s body of work tempered just slightly by what-have-you-done-for-me-lately. Fifteen Bright House games down; only one to go before Spring Training 2012 is gone. Amazing.