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Kapler: Irvin's at-bat 'everything in that game'

Rookie hurler draws 10-pitch walk on way to second straight win
@paul_casellaMLB
May 18, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Irvin heard the hometown crowd growing louder and louder with each pitch in a game-altering 10-pitch exchange in the third inning of Friday's 5-4 win over the Rockies. But the rookie southpaw was standing in the batter's box -- not on the pitcher's mound -- at Citizens

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Irvin heard the hometown crowd growing louder and louder with each pitch in a game-altering 10-pitch exchange in the third inning of Friday's 5-4 win over the Rockies.

But the rookie southpaw was standing in the batter's box -- not on the pitcher's mound -- at Citizens Bank Park.

Irvin, making his second career start, worked a pivotal 10-pitch walk in his first career plate appearance. The fans showed their appreciation with each offering, particularly as Irvin fouled off four two-strike pitches before laying off a 97 mph fastball just off the plate for ball four. Andrew McCutchen promptly followed with a two-run homer to erase an early 2-0 deficit.

Box score

“That was awesome. That was really cool," Irvin said of the crowd response. "A unique experience for sure. First time hitting in a big league ballpark. Man, I wanted to get a base hit there, but I guess a walk works too."

Not only did a walk work in that situation, manager Gabe Kapler said it changed the entire game.

"I think it was everything in that game," Kapler said. "The other thing I want to call out is our fans are so good at that. It's one thing they're so aware of -- you get into six pitches for a pitcher, and you start to hear the cheers. After the seventh pitch, people are on their feet. It's the right time to be behind us and to support us. I think we all felt it."

It couldn't have come at a better time for a Phillies team that had not only lost three straight games coming into Friday, but had also gotten off to a sluggish start against the Rockies following a 36-minute rain delay.

Irvin's hard-fought walk in the third came after he was charged with a pair of errors in a haphazard second inning for Phily's defense. The first came on a comebacker with Raimel Tapia on first, in which Irvin spun to throw to second, but instead spiked the ball into the ground when he realized nobody was covering the bag.

That allowed the runner to advance all the way to third, before scoring one batter later on a fielder's choice in which Rhys Hoskins unsuccessfully attempted to cut down Tapia at the plate. The next hitter, Tony Wolters, chopped another comebacker to Irvin, whose throw to second base was just a bit too high for shortstop Jean Segura to handle cleanly.

"Cole had every opportunity to unravel there in the second," Kapler said. "We talked about what some of his strengths are. I think the first one is poise. He's so aware of what's going on around him. He never has that wide-eyed look."

Instead of letting things slip away, Irvin induced an inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Rockies starter Jon Gray to limit the damage to just that one run.

Irvin helped get the run back with his hard-fought walk the following inning, setting the tone for a Phillies team that had scored just six runs in its last three games. After McCutchen's homer tied it in the third, Cesar Hernandez put the Phillies ahead, 3-2, with an RBI double one inning later.

Bryce Harper extended the lead in the fifth inning with a two-run double that had an exit velocity of 102.9 mph, according to Statcast. That proved to be the difference on a night when all five Phillies runs came with two outs.

Despite Harper’s double and McCutchen's homer, the duo -- which is tied atop the National League with 33 walks apiece -- agreed that Irvin's first career free pass was the turning point.

Irvin’s plate prowess aside, the southpaw also settled in for his second quality start in as many career outings, holding the Rockies to three earned runs over six innings to improve to 2-0. Given the way the second inning unfolded, Kapler said that was every bit as impressive as his lengthy at-bat.

"We've seen what happens when the game gets a little fast on you. It can spin out of control rapidly," Kapler said. "I don't think Cole is going to allow that to happen very often."

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casellaMLB.