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Altherr's walk-off double sends Phils to wild win

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr, his jersey untucked and his smile wide, emerged from a mob of rowdy baseball players as a temporary hero. In that moment, the Phillies' problems felt far away, as what was left of the Citizens Bank Park crowd celebrated a 6-5 walk-off win in 10 innings over the Cardinals on Monday night.

"I was ready for the opportunity to end the game," Altherr said. "Especially in a spot like that, you want to be up there."

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PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr, his jersey untucked and his smile wide, emerged from a mob of rowdy baseball players as a temporary hero. In that moment, the Phillies' problems felt far away, as what was left of the Citizens Bank Park crowd celebrated a 6-5 walk-off win in 10 innings over the Cardinals on Monday night.

"I was ready for the opportunity to end the game," Altherr said. "Especially in a spot like that, you want to be up there."

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Video: STL@PHI: Altherr on his walk-off double in the 10th

Moments earlier, Altherr came to the plate with the Phillies trailing by a run and men on first and second with two outs. Carlos Santana represented the winning run, on base via an intentional walk. Altherr lined a shot to left field. Marcell Ozuna dove. The ball bounced high off Ozuna's glove, and by the time he recovered, Santana had trotted across home plate.

A game that highlighted the Phillies' lack of a designated closer ended because the Cardinals intentionally put the winning run on base, and Ozuna dove for a ball that had just a 4 percent catch probability after he covered 47 feet in 3.1 seconds, according to Statcast™.

"Altherr, he's worked so hard," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's had so many struggles. He's had so many lineouts. It was really nice to see a ball bounce in his direction tonight."

The Phillies were in that position because they faltered in the ninth, spoiling a dominant effort from Nick Pivetta, who struck out a career-high 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings. Victor Arano started the inning trying to become the seventh Phillie to record a save in 2018. Yairo Munoz's swinging strike three should have ended the game -- Kapler himself thought the game was over -- but Andrew Knapp couldn't block a hard slider that trickled between his legs to the backstop, letting a run score.

"I've got to make that play," Knapp said. "I've got to block it. I've blocked that pitch a million times. This one just got under my glove."

Video: STL@PHI: Molina scores as wild pitch extends the game

Adam Morgan came on to stop the bleeding. He couldn't. The first batter he faced, Kolten Wong, singled home the tying run, and after the Phillies failed to score in the home half of the ninth, Jake Thompson surrendered a home run in the top of the 10th to Tommy Pham. The ballpark went quiet. Fans set out for the exits.

The late-inning stumble raised the question of whether or not the Phillies' current bullpen usage is sustainable. They don't have a set closer. Seranthony Dominguez, the rookie who has pitched more than any other Phillies reliever since he debuted in early May, is Kapler's most trusted reliever in high-pressure situations. And with Dominguez unavailable after throwing 52 pitches over the weekend in Milwaukee, a blown lead in the ninth and a deficit in the 10th put the Phillies on the brink of a bad loss, before Altherr -- who was in the game because Nick Williams left injured after a ball ricocheted off his face -- saved the day.

"Everybody wants to have a guy that's absolutely, lights-out dominant," Kapler said. "Those guys don't grow on trees, and I really like our guys."

Kapler wouldn't commit to the idea that a change in bullpen philosophy was necessary. He didn't dismiss the notion that Dominguez could close in the future. And the Phillies went home with plenty more questions unanswered.

"I think anything," Kapler said, "is possible."

Video: STL@PHI: Kapler on Pivetta's outing, the walk-off win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pivetta's curveball dominates: Pivetta got 21 swings and misses on 108 pitches, which is the second-best mark of his career. Eleven of those whiffs came on a lethal curveball, which had the Cardinals baffled throughout the night. Pivetta's strong effort followed a slow start in June, in which he posted an 8.36 ERA in his previous three starts.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," Knapp said. "The curveball was electric."

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta said. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

Video: STL@PHI: Pivetta strikes out 13 over 7 1/3 innings

Herrera stays hot: Odubel Herrera initially showed bunt when he hit with two on and no outs in the first inning. He bunted foul. He took a ball, then clubbed a Miles Mikolas changeup over the right-field fence to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Herrera is hitting .391 (9-for-23) with one double, three home runs, six RBIs and a 1.243 OPS in his last five games.

• Herrera stays hot with 3-run homer

Video: STL@PHI: Herrera clubs a 3-run homer to right in 1st

SOUND SMART
Phillies starters have 10 or more strikeouts in seven games this season: Aaron Nola (3), Pivetta (2), Jake Arrieta (1) and Vince Velasquez (1). They are the most by a Phillies' rotation since 2014, when they had nine: Cole Hamels (4), A.J. Burnett (3) and Cliff Lee (2).

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Maikel Franco has moved into a reserve role, in part because the Phillies like J.P. Crawford's defense at third base. But Franco, who started for just the third time in the last 11 games, flashed the leather in the second inning when he snagged an Ozuna chopper to his right, leapt and threw a dart across the diamond while fading away to get the out.

Video: Must C Cannon: Franco makes a sensational jump throw

HE SAID IT
"I think anything is possible. I don't think it's out of the question that we give the ninth inning to Seranthony. I'm not sure that's what is best for the Phillies and I will always do what I think is best for the Phillies. Sometimes that will be matching up in the ninth and sometimes it will be giving a guy a chance to take the entire ninth and sometimes it will be using Seranthony earlier in the game or [Edubray] Ramos earlier in the game. I don't know that it is necessary to designate somebody for a particular inning, especially given how much confidence we have in several guys." -- Kapler, on if the Phillies would be better served with a designated closer

Video: STL@PHI: Phillies broadcast on need for bullpen help

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Rhys Hoskins hit a ball down the left-field line in the seventh inning that missed the foul pole by inches. Crew chief Gary Cederstrom called for a review, but replay confirmed that the ball went inches wide of a home run.

Video: STL@PHI: Hoskins' foul confirmed following review

UP NEXT
The second matchup of the three-game series at Citizens Bank Park pits Velasquez (5-7, 4.74 ERA) against the Cardinals' Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.52 ERA) on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Velasquez's performance has gone to extremes of late. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning his last time on the mound to follow up a 10-run debacle against the Brewers the outing prior.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Altherr, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Nick Pivetta