PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Miller turned and shouted at his teammates going crazy in the Phillies dugout.
He had just crushed a ball off the LifeBrand sign on the second-deck facade in right-center field for a walk-off grand slam in the eighth inning of an improbable 11-8 victory over the Nationals in Game 2 of Thursday’s seven-inning doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. Miller hit the ball so hard that it ricocheted back toward the first few rows of seats in right field and bounced back onto the field.
It was a fun moment for Miller.
It was badly needed for the Phils, too.
“Baseball just kind of kicks you [between the legs] all the time,” Miller said. “A long day at the park. We need it. So, just to do that and to look over to the bench and see the guys going crazy, I think that's my favorite part. See my boys going crazy and running around the bases. Finding a way to win.”
It was the first time the Phillies won a game trailing by seven runs since Aug. 12, 2010, when they overcame a 9-2 deficit to beat the Dodgers in a 10-9 walk-off in 10 innings. Carlos Ruiz’s double to left-center field in the 10th inning that night scored Jayson Werth and Ben Francisco to win it.
Miller’s hit scored Rafael Marchan, Jean Segura and pinch-hitter Aaron Nola, who was pressed into action because the Phillies ran out of bench players following injuries to Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.
“We’re talking about the Fightins, right?” Harper said. “That’s what they say?”
Then Miller dropped the barrel of his bat on a 1-2 sinker from Nationals left-hander Sam Clay. Everybody in the ballpark knew it was gone the moment Miller hit it. The ball left his bat at 105.8 mph and travelled a projected 425 feet, according to Statcast.
Miller won the Phillies more than a game on Thursday. His heroics allowed the Phillies to split a doubleheader and a four-game series to improve to 51-51 and move within 3 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East.
It is not a stretch to think that the Phillies’ front office could have dialed back their efforts to make upgrades before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, if the team lost three of four to the Nationals. Washington played shorthanded the final two games of the series because of COVID-19 issues, while working to trade its biggest stars to jumpstart a substantial rebuild.
It had been a disappointing week for the Phillies to that point. The Phillies thought they acquired left-hander Tyler Anderson from the Pirates on Tuesday. But the deal collapsed because Pittsburgh had medical concerns about one of the Phillies’ prospects in the return. Pittsburgh traded Anderson to Seattle instead.
The Phillies hoped Anderson could start Thursday in place of right-hander Vince Velasquez. Then the rotation got reshuffled because Wednesday’s game got postponed because of Washington’s COVID situation.
Zack Wheeler faced Max Scherzer in Game 1. The Phillies lost, 3-1.
Cristopher Sánchez started Game 2. He allowed four runs and lasted just one-third of an inning.
Harper’s back tightened up in between games and he left Game 2 in the third. Hoskins appeared to tweak a groin diving for a ball in the top of the third. He homered in the bottom of the inning to cut the Nationals’ lead to 7-1, but he left the game in the sixth.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said both players are day to day, although Harper said he will play Friday.
But will Girardi have any new players in Pittsburgh?
“It’s got to be smart,” Harper said about potential Deadline moves. “We can't just do it just to do it. I think as a team we're just going to go out and play our game. We have so much faith in Dombo [Dave Dombrowski] and what he does. We have so much faith in Sam [Fuld] as well. They've been around the game for a long time. They know the players that we need. They understand our weaknesses and what we need to add, and I mean, that's just how it is right now. We can't really control what they do or anything like that. And like I said, I trust so much in what Dombo does. He's unbelievable as a head of our operation and also Fuldy.
“I'm looking forward to the next 24 hours, seeing what type of team we're going to be. We'll see what happens. And if we're that same team, then we're going to battle and we're going to grind each day, and we're going to go out there and play to the best of our ability and we're going to hopefully come out on top and win this division, because we need to.”