What will bother Arizona and Merrill Kelly, especially after Game 2 is that Kelly pitched really well. In the playoffs, giving up three hits over five innings is exactly what a team and pitcher would ask for. It’s just hard to fathom that each of those three hits were solo homers. Kelly and Spencer Strider might need to have a beer together soon to support each other, having both been beaten in the same fashion by the Phillies. It’s looking like Kelly might have all the time in the world very soon. What’s a pitcher to do when the slightest miss is going to ring the bell?
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That’s the margin of error playing the Phillies involves these days. Make any bad pitch and it’s going on a flight with a movie. Kelly missed with a fastball in the 1st inning, it was still up in the zone but not outside where he wanted it, and Trea Turner launched it. He left one fastball up and out, and then a change-up a little too close to the plate to Schwarber, and just with that he and the D-Backs were down three. Just one slip is all it takes, apparently.
Meanwhile, Aaron Nola, who wasn’t even all that good this season, has figured out he can cram his entire free agent push into one month, and fired his entire arsenal at Arizona, who barely made him sweat. Nola fired far more change-ups than he did during the regular season, which generated five whiffs on the 12 swings the Diamondbacks took on it, and never produced a hard-hit ball.
What can any team do when their opponent is firing like this? Since the double play that broke Atlanta, the Phillies haven’t had to breathe hard. They’ve trailed for like seven minutes, when Atlanta took the lead in the top of the fourth in Game 4, which was promptly snuffed out by a Castellanos homer in the bottom half. They hit homers, their pitchers get everyone out, and everyone goes home. Through two games Arizona hasn’t even been in this series. Zac Gallen gave up two homers in the 1st inning of it and they might as well have gone to the Flyers game this afternoon and just hung out in the parking lot. They aren’t a factor yet.
It’s whatever Phillie is homering next. It’s whatever pitcher is getting everyone out. It’s whatever decision manager Rob Thomson makes that can’t be wrong. It’s the delirious roar of the Citizens Bank crowd.
Nothing about the NLCS has been about the Diamondbacks. Seeing as how they’ve thrown their only two good starters and came up with a handful of themselves and nothing else, it feels like nothing about it is going to be either.
Michael Bradley retired yesterday, and though USMNT fans might let his move away from Serie A and Roma to Toronto FC, or the failures of 2018, color what his legacy was. Because Bradley was truly special.
If the Landon Donovan-DeMarcus Beasley-Claudio Reyna generation was the first one to announce the US’s presence on the world stage with its 2002 World Cup performance, then Bradley spearheaded the next one that kept it there in 2010 and 2014. Bradley was the complete midfielder, maybe a little hurt by not having a true position or being asked to do everything first by his father and then by Jurgen Klinsmann as manager. But the thing was, Bradley could do everything. He bounced around the midfield like the higher levels of “Breakout.” He had an eye for a pass, was tough in the tackle, and could be the late arriver in the box as well. He connected defense to midfield, midfield to attack, and everything in between.
He was also the first US player to scratch his way to a Champions League level club in a Big 5 league when he earned a move to Roma. Dempsey’s Tottenham were still in the second tier of the Premier League, and that was about it for the list. There were rumors that Arsene Wenger was sniffing around in 2010 too, and it felt like Bradley could become the first truly world-class player that had come from these shores.
Maybe he didn’t quite hit those heights, and it was disappointing to see him opt for Toronto’s millions and assured starting place when things got rocky at Roma. But he had a young family, and the allure of money and a life in a city much closer to home isn’t to be ignored.
He also scored the best goal in the Azteca that any Yank will ever score:
He got a fair share of the blame when Klinsmann’s reign went into the sewer, but a good portion of that was because Bradley couldn’t ignore how big of an idiot Klinsmann actually was. The failure to qualify in 2018 was put on his and the other vets’ shoulders, and they earned a good portion of that. But there was only so much Bradley could do with such disorganization and obtuseness coming from not just the manager’s seat but from the whole organization. Especially in his waning years.
Donovan and Dempsey stole most of the headlines of those 2010 and 2014 teams, but it was Bradley who was the engine and heartbeat of those teams, especially in bottling up England in South Africa and spearheading that comeback against Slovenia and their refusal to give in to Algeria which set the stage for Donovan’s walk-off. Bradley felt like the first step for the USMNT to go from the athletic, energetic go-hards that just tried to outfight other teams into something more technical and cerebral. He certainly signaled something new when he came onto the scene. Hopefully, that’s how he’ll be remembered now.
I know the Bears are a constant fountain of entertainment and wonder, but I can’t leave without leaving this here:
If Matt Eberflus keeps his job after this season, after being the guy who put all the pieces in place to allow this to happen, I’ll be dead by October 2024.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social