Odúbel Herrera let the bat fly.
He knew he did something great the moment he hit a 0-1 hanging slider from Nationals left-hander Brad Hand with one out in the ninth inning Wednesday night at Nationals Park. It is not easy to hit Hand. He had not allowed a homer since September 2019. He had not allowed a homer against a left-handed hitter since September 2018.
But Herrera hit a game-tying solo home run to center field against Hand to propel the Phillies to a 5-2 victory in 10 innings.
The Phillies won their first road series (minimum three games) since Sept. 17-19, 2019, against Atlanta. They can sweep their first road series since April 13-15, 2018, against Tampa Bay with a victory on Thursday.
“I feel really good, really excited because I put the team in a good way to win the game,” Herrera said.
Herrera enjoyed his homer with a customary bat flip at home plate. He shouted and clapped enthusiastically as he rounded third base. He slapped the right hand of Phillies third-base coach Dusty Wathan as he trotted home.
He clapped one more time before he touched the plate. He looked skyward.
Herrera is batting .375 (9-for-24) with two doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and a 1.173 OPS in his last seven games. He batted .083 with a .203 OPS in his first nine. This is his first extended time seeing big league pitching since his May 2019 arrest for simple assault and 85-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy.
“He’s been good,” Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper said. “He’s been playing the game hard, playing it right. He’s one of us. He’s a Phillie. He comes in here every single day and prepares to play hard. I think you’re seeing him get more comfortable with us -- get more comfortable with the team and in the batter’s box, as well. It’s a tough game to take time off, not being able to play, and then come back and get thrown into the fire. I think he’s getting more and more comfortable every day as you can tell by his at-bats.
“And the thing about Odúbel, too, is he brings that emotion and that passion the correct way. On his walks, he’s fired up, he’s clapping and he’s ready to go. I think that helps a team -- that helps an organization -- kind of take that step every single day to be fiery and passionate to the way guys prepare and play, so I think the more and more he gets comfortable, the better he’s going to be, and the more you’re going to see him out there in center field every single day.”
Both Herrera and Harper made up for a defensive gaffe in the sixth.
Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler’s 20-inning scoreless streak ended in the sixth, when he allowed a run to tie the game. Alex Avila then hit a ball to the warning track in right-center field that fell between Herrera and Harper.
The two collided and fell to the track as Starlin Castro scored from first to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.
Both outfielders called it a miscommunication.
“We’ve just got to communicate better and make that catch,” Herrera said.
“Wheeler doesn’t deserve that,” Harper said.
Herrera and Harper seemed to be in the middle of everything Wednesday. Harper singled to left in the fifth, but Herrera was thrown out at the plate on a perfect throw from left fielder Kyle Schwarber. Harper came through in the 10th, when he sparked the Phillies’ three-run rally with a single to put runners on the corners with no outs.
But Harper and the Phillies got to the 10th only because Herrera took them there.
“I think Odúbel, he just goes up there not really thinking about anything, just trying to put bat to ball,” Harper said. “You guys can figure out what I'm saying. He’s great. He just goes up there, bat to ball, and I mean, it's really impressive what he did tonight. And the way he's having his at-bats the last couple games, seeing his pitches, walking, getting comfortable, right? [He's] able to get in the box and see pitches and take his walks and be the dominant threat that he is in the batter's box.”