'Everybody's a superstar': Depth players lead way in Phils' win

Sosa, Stubbs star alongside Bryce in ninth-inning rally

May 26th, 2024

DENVER -- On a team full of superstars with championship aspirations, the unsung heroes that are invariably imperative for clubs that win it all are depth players who come through when it matters most.

On Saturday night at Coors Field, the Phillies showed an important -- if not headline-grabbing -- reason why they own the best record in MLB.

For eight innings against the Rockies, Philadelphia’s bats remained cold following an 11-inning loss the night before. But everything changed in the ninth, and at the center of the pivotal frame were two depth players who delivered in the clutch.

Down to their final three outs and trailing by a run, the Phils got a game-tying triple from and a go-ahead single from , who started behind the plate in place of J.T. Realmuto, who had the night off. Those hits sparked a six-run outburst that led to an 8-4 victory.

Stubbs was getting a rare start and made the most of it. Sosa has been playing in place of the injured Trea Turner and has been one of the club’s best hitters since Turner was sidelined.

Entering Saturday’s contest, Sosa had produced 1.2 fWAR with a .682 slugging percentage since Turner’s injury on May 3. Only six players had been more valuable based on fWAR in that span, including Sosa’s teammate, Bryce Harper (1.3).

“Obviously, when Trea’s injury happened, it was something we weren’t expecting,” Sosa said through a team interpreter. “It caught the club by surprise. But I was focused, I was preparing myself every day. And this opportunity to play comes, and I have to seize it.”

While Sosa’s heroics didn’t come until the ninth, Stubbs was contributing at the plate, behind the plate and on the basepaths throughout the game.

In the second inning, Stubbs made a great throw right on the bag to nab Hunter Goodman trying to steal second. After a review, the safe call on the field was overturned. Stubbs’ pop time of 1.9 seconds was below the MLB average of 2.0, a figure worthy of any backup to Realmuto.

“Awesome, man,” said Saturday’s starter Aaron Nola of the throw. “… One of the more perfect throws I’ve ever seen.”

Stubbs helped Nola gut out six innings on a night when the right-hander didn’t have his best stuff. Overall, Nola managed to limit the Rockies to three runs (two earned) on five hits while walking two and striking out five on 103 pitches.

In the fifth, with the Phils trailing, 3-1, Stubbs singled to left, moved to second on a groundout and then made a heads-up play during a throw to Rockies starter Dakota Hudson from catcher Jacob Stallings with Kyle Schwarber at the plate. Third baseman Ryan McMahon was playing well off the bag, and Stubbs stole third.

Two pitches later, Schwarber hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 3-2.

In the seventh, with the speedy Brenton Doyle on third for Colorado, Goodman tapped a ball right in front of home plate. Before it spun foul, Stubbs grabbed it and threw Goodman out, holding Doyle at third before the Phillies escaped the inning unscathed.

Then in the ninth, with Sosa on third following his triple, Stubbs singled to right to give Philadelphia the lead.

You’d certainly expect those types of contributions from a star like Realmuto. But for someone who plays about once a week?

“The opportunities are slim, for sure,” Stubbs said. “It makes hitting tough. It’s all about rhythm up there. I work with [hitting coach Kevin Long] every single day to be prepared for moments like that.”

Moments like that can be the difference between a club with big names on the roster falling short and one that wins the World Series.

Later in the ninth, Harper launched a three-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole to make it 7-3. Nick Castellanos followed with an RBI single to cap the scoring.

The 2024 Phillies have begun the season on a historic run. They’re on pace to win 116 games. There will be many headlines, and the vast majority will feature names like Harper, Realmuto and Schwarber.

But it’s the Sosas and Stubbs of the world who can put a team over the top in October.

“Everybody’s a superstar on this team,” Stubbs said. “It’s fun to watch.”

On Saturday, it was the superstars who enjoyed watching Sosa and Stubbs shine in the biggest moments.