PHOENIX — J.T. Realmuto smashed a ball off the left-center-field wall in the ninth inning Monday night at Chase Field.
He cruised into second base for a double, turned to the visitors’ dugout and flashed a double thumbs-up to his teammates.
That was how Realmuto became the ninth player in Phillies history to hit for the cycle and the first since David Bell against the Expos at Citizens Bank Park in 2004 in a 9-8 loss to Arizona at Chase Field. Realmuto is the 16th catcher in baseball history to hit for the cycle and the first backstop since Milwaukee’s George Kottaras in 2011.
But nobody popped champagne bottles afterward because the Phillies blew a four-run lead in their latest bullpen game.
“Yeah, I don’t know, it kind of sucks honestly,” Realmuto said. “Doing it is obviously a cool accomplishment, but the fact that we lost the game kind of dampens it a little bit.”
Realmuto found himself in the middle of everything Monday. There was the cycle, of course. He homered in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1. His triple in the third scored two runs to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.
He singled in the fifth and walked in the seventh.
“After my first two at-bats I started thinking about it a little bit,” Realmuto said. “I walked the at-bat before [in the seventh] so I was going to be a little more aggressive in that at-bat to give myself a chance.”
But in the third inning, Realmuto found himself face-to-face a couple of times with D-backs manager Torey Lovullo. Phillies left-hander Matt Strahm grazed Corbin Carroll’s right hand with a pitch, making it the second time Strahm hit Carroll in the game.
“Zero intent behind both,” Strahm said.
But Lovullo immediately left the dugout to defend his player. He had a few words for home plate umpire Vic Carapazza, then started to talk to Realmuto, who tried to explain to Lovullo that the Phillies were not trying to hit Carroll, who is one of the fastest players in baseball, with nobody out and a 5-1 lead.
Carapazza ejected Lovullo, who then turned his attention back towards Realmuto.
Realmuto seemed to be amused by the entire situation. Benches and bullpens cleared at one point. Lovullo started to leave the field, then reentered the scrum with more words for Realmuto.
“I think it looked a little worse on video than what it actually was,” Realmuto said. “Because he wasn’t challenging me at all. He wasn’t saying anything derogatory. He was just backing his player up. At one point he was saying, ‘I would do the same thing for you. If you were on my team I’d back you up, too.’ and pointing at my chest. It looked like he was saying something bad to me, but he really wasn’t. He was just defending his player.
“It was a little blown out of proportion. We have a 5-1 lead at the time. We’re trying to get him out. Obviously, the whole stadium knew we weren’t trying to hit him there. At least anybody that knows the game of baseball. We’re just trying to get outs. You’ve got a really good left-handed hitter that covers the outside of the plate really well and we have a lefty that throws sinkers in a lot. I’m not going to not call sinkers in because he happened to get hit his first at-bat. We still have to execute the game plan. We still have to pitch to Strahm’s strengths. He just let two get away from him.”
Said Lovullo: “I have nothing but the utmost respect for J.T. Realmuto.”
Crew chief Jerry Layne issued warnings to both benches.
“A lot going on,” Realmuto said.
“It’s tough because you have to have so many guys that are on that night,” Realmuto said about the challenges in a bullpen game.
But Realmuto gave the Phillies a chance. He scored in the ninth on Bryson Stott’s two-out single to right to cut the deficit to one. Pinch-hitter Kody Clemens almost hit a go-ahead, two-run homer, but the ball carried just outside the foul pole.
Teams were 21-0 in baseball history when they had a player hit for the cycle, walk, score three runs and drive in three runs.
“It’s bittersweet,” Realmuto said.