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Phillies learning that Bruce's word is bond

Slugger's walk-off hit fulfills promise, puts Phils on verge of sweep
@ToddZolecki
June 27, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler texted Jay Bruce on Wednesday morning to see if he could rest him with Mets left-hander Jason Vargas on the mound that night and a run of right-handed pitchers in the Phillies’ future. Bruce declined. He said he wanted to play because he believed he was

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler texted Jay Bruce on Wednesday morning to see if he could rest him with Mets left-hander Jason Vargas on the mound that night and a run of right-handed pitchers in the Phillies’ future. Bruce declined. He said he wanted to play because he believed he was one of the eight best batters in the lineup.

Fast forward several hours later.

“I told you,” Bruce told his manager as he walked off the field following his 10th-inning walk-off double to center field in a 5-4 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

Box score

“I believe him,” Kapler said. “Everything he has said has been true -- from the time he got to the Phillies, from the time he walked into my office in San Diego and said he was still a strong enough defender to put out there every day, that his body was capable of bouncing back. He's proven that to be true. That he can hit left-handed pitching. He's proven that to be true. I'll never doubt another word that Jay Bruce says.”

It was Bruce’s 12th walk-off hit of his career and his first since Sept. 14, 2017. It was the Phillies’ first walk-off victory since Aug. 31, 2018.

It put the Phillies in position to sweep the four-game series with a victory Thursday afternoon. It would be a heck of a turnaround following a season-high seven-game losing streak and intense scrutiny about the future of Kapler and his coaching staff.

“We've been playing great baseball lately,” Bruce said. “And even in the losing streak, we were putting together really good at-bats and it just wasn't syncing up. We'd pitch well sometimes, we wouldn't hit. We'd hit well sometimes, we wouldn't pitch. It's just the game. It's hard. It's fleeting. It's one of those situations where you just have to keep playing.”

The Phillies trailed 4-1 in the seventh, but for the third time in the series they overcame an early deficit. They scored three runs in the inning to tie the game. Vargas struck out 10 batters for the first time since June 26, 2012, but Mets manager Mickey Callaway pulled him with a runner on second and one out. Cesar Hernandez followed with a run-scoring double. Jean Segura later singled to right field to score two runs and tie it.

The Phillies bullpen pitched beautifully, allowing just one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta allowed nine hits, four runs, three walks and two home runs in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three.

Pivetta has a 7.13 ERA in his past three starts since posting a 1.80 ERA in his first three following his return from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He showed his emotions throughout, including the very end. He had started to walk off the mound in the sixth before Kapler arrived to take the ball from him. It is not proper protocol.

“It's just the most professional way to handle getting taken out of a game,” Kapler said, about waiting for the manager on the mound. “I think he can do a better job of keeping his emotions in check. When he keeps his emotions in check, he doesn't allow one pitch to spill into the next. He's a much better pitcher.”

“I compete and I'm an emotional pitcher for the most part, but I compete,” Pivetta said. “At the end of the day, I don't think any of that gets in the way. I just care.”

Rhys Hoskins worked a nine-pitch at-bat into a leadoff walk in the 10th. J.T. Realmuto followed with a single to center. Roman Quinn pinch-ran for Hoskins. It was a small gamble in that if the Phillies failed to score, they had lost one of the best bats in their lineup.

But Kapler managed to win the game right there. Bruce hit a 1-0 fastball over the head of Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, who had moved up for a potential play at the plate. Lagares was only 296 feet from home plate when the ball was hit, according to Statcast. He typically plays 319 feet from home plate at Citizens Bank Park. He was 338 feet from home plate for Realmuto’s at-bat.

Bruce’s ball carried 384.

“I knew it was going over his head just because of how shallow he was,” Quinn said. “He was playing really shallow. I was just trying to get a good read, making sure he didn’t catch it.”

Lagares had no chance. Bruce rounded second and smiled as his teammates ran toward him for the celebration. He enjoys these moments.

“I want to be the guy up at the plate with a chance to end it,” Bruce said.

Good thing Kapler listened.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .