Well, he caught it ... until he dropped it.
Acuña jumped at the center-field fence to rob Kingery of a home run in the third inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, but the ball slid out of his glove as he landed on the warning track. Acuña tried to signal that he caught the ball, but Kingery didn’t know what to think so he kept running. By the time Acuña figured out what was happening, Kingery picked up speed, rounded third and slid home safely for an inside-the-park home run in a 6-5 victory over the Braves.
The win moved the Phillies within two games of the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card with 18 games to play, as Chicago lost, 9-8, to the Padres in San Diego.
“I slowed up at second base when I saw his glove go over and I saw him come back with the ball,” Kingery said. “I wasn’t really sure what the rules were once the ball came out of his glove, so I just kept running and, thankfully, [third-base coach] Dusty [Wathan] sent me home.”
Kingery’s sprint speed (28.2 feet per second) got him around the bases in 15.70 seconds, according to Statcast. Nick Williams hit the Phillies’ last inside-the-park home run on Oct. 1, 2017, getting around the bases in 15.68 seconds. Aaron Altherr got around the bases in 14.90 seconds on his inside-the-park grand slam at Nationals Park in 2015.
“We talked since Spring Training [about] how important sharp turns around the bases were and how important it is to hustle out of the batter’s box on any ball,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “And we weren't sure if it was a home run. Kingery wasn't sure if it was a home run. Acuña wasn't sure if it was a home run. And he never stopped running. And that's why he walked away with an inside-the-park home run, one of the more exciting plays we've seen all year.”
Kingery’s inside-the-park homer was the Phillies’ fourth of five homers on the night. J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Corey Dickerson each homered in the first inning. Realmuto ripped a pitch 108.1 mph off the left-field foul pole. Harper crushed the next pitch from Braves left-hander Max Fried at 106.7 mph, sending the ball 443 feet into the Phillies’ bullpen in right-center field. After Rhys Hoskins hit a 107.2 mph rocket off the center-field fence for a double, Dickerson then smashed a two-run homer to right that was clocked at 106.8 mph.
It was the first time the Phillies hit three homers in the first inning since July 6, 2009, when Shane Victorino, Greg Dobbs and Chase Utley each homered against the Reds.
“That first inning was pretty impressive, how hard we were hitting balls,” Kapler said. “Rhys and I were joking before the game, I said, 'Look, I know it is very difficult when you are hitting balls on a line and they are not finding grass or not finding the seats. It can be really frustrating.' And then when he hit that ball, I said I would have been frustrated had that ball been caught. Because that was as hard hit a ball to center field that you will see on a line. Absolutely smoked. I was really happy for him to have that.”
Dickerson’s second homer of the night, a solo shot into the second deck in right field in the sixth, extended the Phillies’ lead to 6-4. That ball was clocked at 108.3 mph, the Phillies’ hardest-hit ball of the night.
Dickerson will be a free agent after this season. He is making a case for the Phillies to keep him.
“I’ve loved it here,” Dickerson said. “That’s out of my control, especially watching the free agent market lately. It’s pretty crazy. I just hope, ‘Don’t get a Minor League deal.’ No, it’s great. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m going to do my best to finish strong with these guys and compete and have fun and be a good teammate and all that stuff will work out.”
The Phillies must continue to hit if they expect to catch the Cubs, which showed when left-hander Jason Vargas allowed four runs in three innings. While the bullpen contained the Braves to one run in the final six frames, the Phillies can’t expect that every night.
But the Phillies kept hope alive Tuesday. Chicago is playing without star shortstop Javy Baez for the rest of the month, given the hairline fracture on his left thumb. And the Brewers, who are a game ahead of the Phillies in the Wild Card standings, will play the rest of the season without NL MVP candidate Christian Yelich, who fractured his kneecap on a foul ball Tuesday in Miami.