Phillies' Alec Bohm delivers after rain delay in extras: 'It was like a playoff game'

BALTIMORE — Orion Kerkering shook his head in the 10th inning of an epic game between two of the best teams in baseball. He did not want a fastball like his catcher, Rafael Marchán, had called. But it was so loud at Camden Yards that Kerkering could not hear the device tucked into his hat. The only word he heard was “ball,” so Marchán must have called for the fastball again.

But Marchán wanted a slider. He had no chance to catch 97 mph when he wasn’t expecting it. And because of that, the wild pitch hit the brick backstop so hard that it bounced right to Marchán. He had the game in his glove … and he slipped. The Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles were tied again.

Then, as if the baseball gods deemed this was too good for June, the skies opened. It poured. This — Phillies 5, Orioles 3 — is not supposed to feel like it felt Friday night.

“It was loud,” Alec Bohm said. “It was fun. A lot of red. It was a really cool environment.”

“To be part of that,” Marchán said, “just made me feel grateful and blessed.”

“It was like a playoff game,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.

So, as they waited one hour and 11 minutes for the rain to stop, they could take a moment to regroup. Two plays at the plate in the 10th inning had not gone their way. Earlier, Matt Strahm had surrendered his first earned run since Opening Day. They had not arrived at their Baltimore hotel until about 2 a.m. Friday. This is a trip that began in Europe. Everyone is tired.

The coaches knew that if there was a base open in the 11th inning, Baltimore would walk Bryce Harper. Bohm would have to deliver. He had been so dependable for the first six weeks of the season and drowning in the last month.

He had time to contemplate this crucial at-bat as everyone sat around in the clubhouse killing time.

“I really didn’t think about it,” Bohm said, “to be honest with you.”

A team that is 25 games over .500 in mid-June cannot dictate everything. It might cruise to a National League East title. It might not. It is adjusting to life as the favorite, and with that comes uncharted territory for this group.

The Phillies have a modest request for their players: Find ways to challenge yourself daily. Improve in the smallest ways. This is not perfect; a sluggish series in Boston proved that.

But the Phillies want to know everything they can know about this team before October comes. These regular-season games will lose importance at some point. It will be about prioritizing the bigger picture: getting to October healthy and sharp.

But then there are moments like this weekend. Orioles and Phillies fans are flocking to Camden Yards. All three games are sold out. This is the first time these neighbors have played each other while both have winning records. The Phillies have unfinished business. The Orioles are the kids storming through the league.

“They’re a good club,” Thomson said Thursday night at Fenway Park. “It’s a good test. You know? It’s a good test for them too.”

The manager smiled. He knows the current product is not at its best. The Phillies are missing their star shortstop and their star catcher and their bearded, weirdo left fielder who mashes righty pitchers. They know their pitching will regress some. They know they will have to generate more offense. They know there will be more injuries to overcome.

And they know they are good. They had 11 more innings Friday night as evidence.

“Well, I think that’s probably the most exciting game that we’ve had this year,” Thomson said. “It was like a playoff game. And the guys responded. So that’s good to see.”

It’s the little things. The Phillies, generally, know who they can trust. They want to see who else emerges. Marchán, the third-string catcher, shepherded six Phillies pitchers through 11 innings. He looked in command behind the plate. He cut down a runner at third base on an important play.

And, in the fifth inning, he homered to put the Phillies ahead. It was his first hit in the majors in 1,016 days. He has three home runs in 73 plate appearances in the majors and eight homers in 1,673 minor-league plate appearances.

“He homers in the big leagues, man,” Bohm said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Kerkering, with a chance for his first save in the majors, stumbled. Had he not been crossed up with Marchán, he had a path toward escaping a bases-loaded jam. A little piece of experience.

“Things didn’t go quite how I wanted them,” Kerkering said. “But still being out there, it was awesome.”
Seranthony Domínguez, who was so important in the 2022 postseason only to since wander in the desert, earned the save in the 11th inning. He has not been scored upon in 10 consecutive appearances. He has still struggled with command, and his slider is a work in progress. But he has regained some confidence.

“He just came right after guys,” Marchán said. “He was aggressive with all the pitches he threw. He did his job, and we won the game. That was a great outing for him. I’m happy for him.”

Bohm collected three hits in a game for the first time since April 28. He is integral to this whole thing as Harper’s protection in the lineup. He has gone into slumps before, and now the evolution comes with pulling himself from them faster than before.

“That was big for him,” Thomson said.

Once the game resumed, all it took was 12 minutes for the Phillies to win. The stadium had emptied, and a majority of the people who remained were Phillies fans. They started a loud “Let’s go, Phillies!” chant as the Orioles grounds crew prepared the field to restart play. They were rewarded.

“We’ve got the greatest fans in the world,” Thomson said. “Those people stayed until the end. That was really cool. Our guys really appreciated it.”

Not bad for June. Not bad at all.

(Photo: Terrance Williams / Associated Press)

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