PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler tried to keep his comments to a minimum early Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park.
It already had been an incredibly long day. He knew everybody wanted to go home. But the manager could not help but mention the fact that the Phillies' 7-4 victory over the Dodgers in 16 innings meant something a little more than a run-of-the-mill nine-inning victory.
They outlasted the Dodgers, who very well might be the best team in the National League. They moved into sole possession of first place in the NL East, taking a one-game lead over the Braves and a seven-game lead over the Nationals, who entered the season as heavy favorites to win the division.
"We felt like that game was worth going all-in for," Kapler said. "Every game is, but certainly when you come back like we did, you reward your guys by fighting with them by saying, 'This game means everything to us.' So, that's how we approached it."
Phillies third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who joined the team just a couple weeks ago, hit a three-run, walk-off home run against Dodgers infielder Enrique Hernandez, who pitched the 16th. Curiously, the Dodgers sent Rich Hill to the bullpen to warm up, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said afterward they only wanted to use him in a save situation.
They never got there.
Hernandez walked Jesmuel Valentin and Jorge Alfaro with one out, when Plouffe stepped to the plate.
"I'm going to win the game right here," Plouffe told himself.
He ripped a 2-2 pitch to right-center field. It was gone. It was Plouffe's second career walk-off homer. Incredibly, it was the first time in baseball history a full-time position player allowed a walk-off homer.
"We saw Rich Hill warming up, and I don't really know what happened there," Plouffe said. "When [Hernandez] came in, we knew we had a good chance to score there. Just a hard-fought game."
This game resonated in the Phillies' clubhouse because of how they got there. Aaron Nola allowed three runs in five innings. It was not his best effort, but a problematic Phillies defense cost them a run in the first inning and arguably another run in the fifth. They trailed 4-1 in the seventh, when Maikel Franco doubled to score Carlos Santana and Alfaro hit a game-tying, two-run home run into the visitors' bullpen.
The score remained tied at 4 because of the Phillies' bullpen.
It finished the game with 10 consecutive scoreless innings. Luis Garcia struck out four in two scoreless innings in the 12th and 13th. Austin Davis, pitching for the third consecutive day, pitched two scoreless innings in the 14th and 15th.
"That was a blast, the most fun I've had since I've been up here," Davis said.
Vince Velasquez, who is scheduled to start Saturday in Cincinnati, pitched the 16th to get the win.
"After a couple extra innings I was like, 'You want me to get my cleats on?'" Velasquez said.
The Phillies' bullpen has a 2.43 ERA since June 29. It is the best ERA in baseball in that span.
"Our bullpen is nasty," Davis said. "I mean, everyone top to bottom is gross. We didn't even use Seranthony [Dominguez] today and he's one of our best guys. I don't know what the narrative is out there, but our bullpen is disgusting."
The game lasted 5 hours, 55 minutes. The Phillies used everybody on their roster other than Jacob Arrieta, Nick Pivetta and Dominguez.
"It was not one person individually," Kapler said. "It was the bullpen. It was the big hits. It was the fight. It was the tenacity. It was the grind. It was the drive. It was the character. Everybody sort of running for their opportunity to participate in that game. And just about everybody did."
And then everybody ran home. They had to play a series finale in less than 12 hours.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Alfaro crushed a game-tying, two-run home run into the visitors' bullpen with two outs in the seventh inning. The ball traveled a projected 446 feet, making it the Phillies' second-longest homer of the season. (Odubel Herrera hit one 453 feet on June 17.) But Alfaro also hit the ball 114.1 mph. He has the three hardest-hit home runs by a Phillies player since Statcast™'s debut in 2015: 114.5 mph on April 7, 114.2 mph on Aug. 15, 2017, and 114.1 mph Tuesday.
Nick Williams' solo homer to right field against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-1. It was Williams' 12th homer of the season, but more interestingly, it was Williams' third homer in five career at-bats against Maeda. Williams entered the night hitting .266 with 10 home runs, 31 RBIs and an .818 OPS in 65 games since May 5. His improved play has earned him regular playing time in right field, which is one reason why the Phillies optioned Aaron Altherr to Triple-A on Sunday.
PHILLY LOVES UTLEY
Phillies fans cheered when Chase Utley pinch-hit in the 12th inning. They cheered when he singled. And, incredibly, they booed Garcia when he threw over to first base a couple of times. Phillies fans love them some Utley.
HE SAID IT
"Yeah, you're funny. I like that." -- Velasquez, when a reporter pointed out that a lot of people think he would make a solid relief pitcher
HALLION LEAVES GAME
Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion needed to leave the game in the bottom of the 10th inning after he got hit in the face with a foul ball in the top of the 10th. Second-base umpire Phil Cuzzi took Hallion's place behind the plate.
Arrieta (7-6, 3.47 ERA) pitches Wednesday afternoon at 12:35 p.m. ET in the final game of a three-game series against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. Arrieta allowed five runs (four earned) in just 3 1/3 innings on Friday against the Padres, his first start following the All-Star break. The Dodgers send right-hander Walker Buehler to the hill to oppose Arrieta.