Bunt or big fly, Phils just 'move the line' in win

September 12th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- For the past 24 hours, Joe Girardi stressed the need for the stalled Phillies offense to find a way to “move the line.”

The jump-start came in the way of a few walks, a bunt double and three towering home runs. That formula led Philadelphia to a much-needed 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, keeping the Phils right in the middle of the National League playoff picture.

Coupled with the Braves' loss to the Marlins, the win moved Philadelphia (72-70) to 3 1/2 games behind Atlanta (75-66) in the NL East race. Perhaps most important, the Phillies showed offensive flashes -- something that had been missing for most of September. While the homers by Jean Segura, Brad Miller and Bryce Harper combined for 1,221 feet, the biggest hit of the night was a 36.4 mph two-run bunt double by Odúbel Herrera down the third-base line thar gave the Phils’ dugout a jolt of caffeine.

“It’s probably not what I envisioned,” Girardi said. “But it is taking advantage of a situation which too many times gets lost, and it is important in our game. You can execute in different ways. It was outstanding by Odúbel and it was a big play in the game for sure.”

Leading, 1-0, with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, Herrera spotted Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon playing at the normal shortstop spot with Trevor Story one step to the left of the second-base bag. Herrera fed the bunt perfectly on the grassline, where it hopped over McMahon’s hand and into foul territory beyond third base. Harper and Andrew McCutchen scored to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead on the first two-run bunt double since Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia punched one down the first-base line against the Pirates on Sept. 14, 2018.

“I saw them … and I knew that I could lay the bunt down,” Herrera said.

“You really don't look to see a guy bunt with the bases loaded with the pitcher on deck, right?” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It worked out for Herrera, but maybe there was a little bit of an element of surprise there. Mac tried to make a do-or-die play and it got behind him, and obviously we were in a little bit of a shift, so they were able to score two runs. Very unique outcome to a very unique play."

That would be enough for Zack Wheeler, who dipped in and out of trouble a few times during a 6 2/3-inning performance where he allowed one run and struck out eight to earn his 13th win of the season. The only run allowed was on Trevor Story’s home run in the sixth.

“It’s that time of year where we need to bear down,” said Wheeler, who recorded his 1,000th career strikeout on Saturday night. “My goal is to go win the game and go deep in the ballgame. And when you lose a few in a row, it’s time to step up and stop that bleeding.”

Segura connected for his 12th homer of the season in the fifth and had a night of hard contact with each of his first three at-bats resulting in exit velocities of over 107 mph. Brad Miller added a solo homer in the seventh to pad the Philadelphia lead. Two batters later, Harper hit his 31st homer of the season, a blistering 435-foot missile off Rockies reliever Tyler Kinley that landed in the flower bed above the Phillies’ bullpen in right-center.

Over the last eight games before Saturday, the Phillies’ offense had been stuck in quicksand, posting just a .223 batting average coming in while averaging just 3.6 runs per game. That last number was inflated by a 12-run outburst against the Brewers on Labor Day -- in the other seven games of the stretch, the Phillies scored only 17 total runs (2.4 runs per game).

For one night, however, things clicked perfectly. Both with the big fly and the small-ball plays that made a large impact.