The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)
Phils walk it off for 2nd straight game
PHILADELPHIA » In a season of challenges, injuries and bullpen follies, the Phillies have been waiting for a signal that they eventually could find fulfillment.
Two walk-off victories within less than 24 hours over the Atlanta Braves would meet that qualification.
A day after Luke Williams was soaked with all manner of dugout liquids after hitting a game-winning home run, Jean Segura led a conga line of celebratory teammates into shallow left center in celebration of his 10th-inning, tworun single off the wall, good for a 4-3 victory Thursday. Good times.
“The walk-off yesterday was huge,” Segura said. “It gave us momentum to play a little better. Then to come out with this win today, especially when you come from behind, is huge. It tells you what kind of team and what type of leaders we have to play this game.
“And when it happens like that, it’s good.”
Considering that the Phillies were a couple of pitches from being swept at home in a series against a likely NL East contender, winning two of three from Atlanta provided a boost in confidence … and in the standings.
At 30-31, the Phils have a half-game lead on the thirdplace Braves and have nosed within three games of the first-place Mets.
“When you are struggling, you look for these types of moments,” Zack Wheeler said. “It doesn’t matter how you get the wins that matters, it’s just that you get them. And these two have been exciting.”
With the presumed momentum, the Phillies likely didn’t need to be off Friday before opening a series against the visiting Yankees Saturday.
Then again, after all the recent partying, they could need the rest.
“It’s significant, because the alternative was to give away a chance to win a series against a team in your division,” Joe Girardi said. “To me, it’s great. We get an off day. The guys can enjoy it. They can celebrate a little bit. Then we’ll get back to work Saturday.”
Wheeler pitched another All-Star-level game Thursday only to be denied the win when Hector Neris blew a save in the ninth. The right-hander struck out 12 and didn’t walk a batter for his fifth double-figure strikeout start of the season. He is the first Phillie since Cliff Lee (six) in 2011 to have at least five double-digit strikeout games before July.
Still, Wheeler’s record remained at 4-3, while Jose Alvarado improved to 5-0 despite allowing two 10th-inning runs, including one on a wild pitch.
“I’ve had a couple of good stretches in a couple different years,” Wheeler said. “But it wasn’t like it is now. I think the difference is I am throwing the cutter a lot more. The slider is getting better. And I can command almost all of those pitches.”
Despite his meager record, Wheeler clearly is on an AllStar Game arc.
“Honestly, I’m not really thinking about that,” he said. “I feel I am having a solid season so far. But I am just concentrating on what we are doing here and trying to get better.”
Though he had two doubles, drove in one run and scored another in the bottom of the 10th, one misdeed from Odubel Herrera would have him summoned to the manager’s office.
The play in question was his one-out, eighth-inning double high off the right field fence. Obviously believing it to be long enough for a homer, and with plenty in the crowd of 14,261 likely in quick agreement, Herrera took a couple of celebratory hops out of the batter’s box before beginning to run.
Though he would have had a triple had he not paused to appreciate his work, Herrera had to settle for two bases. Segura followed with an RBI double to left to render the issue moot. Girardi, though, was less than entertained.
“There will be,” the manager said, “a discussion.”
Girardi was more forgiving of Herrera’s defense in the ninth, when Freddie Freeman hit a home run over the low center field fence.
Despite seeming to have good chance to register the out and likely save the Phillies the inconvenience of extra innings, Herrera was unable to make the play.
“I think it’s catchable,” Girardi
said. “I don’t think it’s a ball he ‘should’ have caught, but it was a ball he ‘could’ have caught.”
From there, Girardi channeled Gabe Kapler.
“I think what might have happened was that he thought it was going over his left shoulder,” he rationalized. “Then the wind caught it and it went over his left shoulder. And when he jumped to catch it, he was too close to the fence.”
When Chase Anderson was sent to the COVID-related injured list Thursday, catcher Rafael Marchan was recalled to fill the spot.
That gave Girardi the option to pinch-run for Andrew Knapp after earlier having used J.T. Realmuto as a pinch-hitter.
Girardi’s thanks? Marchan’s passed ball in the 10th, allowing the Braves to increase a lead to 3-1.
“It was 99 (mph from Alvarado) and you have one chance to pick it and it’s not easy,” said Girardi, a former catcher. “He blocked some balls. He made some really good plays up and away. That was a ball that not all catchers are going to get to. So to me, I thought he did a really good job because he was all over the place.”
Pitcher Brady Lail, who had been claimed from Seattle on waivers May 23 but never made an appearance with the Phillies, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Lehigh Valley.