Joey Wendle spent his entire baseball career in Chester County before leaving home in 2012 after being drafted. He starred at Avon Grove High and led West Chester University to a national title. Wendle’s baseball journey — first with the Indians and now with the A’s — took him to North Carolina, Nashville, and Akron.
On Sunday, he was home. And Wendle made sure his return was special as he blasted a grand slam in the sixth inning to lift the A’s to a 6-3 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Wendle ripped a first-pitch slider from Edubray Ramos, almost bending down on one knee as he golfed it to right field.
“Did I run around the bases? I don’t remember that,” Wendle said. “It was pretty surreal. Just exciting.”
Wendle was raised on highlights of the 1993 Phillies and followed the team fervently during their most recent glory run. Wendle played at Citizens Bank Park in high school and college. But nothing compares to this.
“I’ve done that a hundred times in my backyard, so it was certainly really fun today,” Wendle said. “Definitely a special memory, definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The blast spoiled a decent start from Henderson Alvarez, who logged five inning in his Phillies debut. Sunday was Alvarez’s first major-league start since May 2015 after he was sidelined by a pair of shoulder surgeries and started the season in independent ball. He was issued the loss after two of his runners scored on the homer allowed by Ramos. Manager Pete Mackanin said Alvarez looked confident. He was impressed by the movement on Alvarez’s pitches.
Alvarez allowed four runs on four hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked two. The A’s seemed to figure him out in the fourth when Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers. Olson homered in each game of the series. His fastball maxed out at 94.5 mph, a good sign as he continues to strengthen his shoulder and regain velocity. The Phillies still have openings for next year’s rotation and signing Alvarez to a one-year deal could be a possibility.
“We have the usual suspects,” Mackanin said. “[Jerad] Eickhoff and [Nick] Pivetta and [Jake] Thompson and [Zach] Eflin. A lot of injuries in there. But it’s wide open, as far as I’m concerned. We have a lot of possibilities after Nola.”
Wendle was briefly booed Sunday as he walked to the plate as the fans tried to drown the cheers from his family and friends. Wendle said he understood.
“I’m a Philly sports fan,” Wendle said.
Some of the group — which had grown so much this weekend that Wendle lost count — traveled earlier this week to Boston to see the A’s at Fenway Park. Wendle did not start any of the three games. He was out of the lineup for the first two games of the weekend before finally starting Sunday. The group was rewarded. They roared when Wendle connected with Ramos’ slider. They cheered as he rounded the bases, a trot that Wendle does not remember. And hollered as he entered the dugout and was greeted by a throng of teammates. His return was special.
“Everybody feels it,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s one thing to hit a grand slam and put your team ahead. It’s another thing when you do it at home. Everybody knows that there’s some sentiment when you’re playing at home, and we were pulling hard for him.”