PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will carry that Luke Williams mojo into the weekend, after all.
They were on the brink of a bad loss to the Braves on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. They failed to take advantage of another brilliant pitching performance from Zack Wheeler. They blew a one-run lead in the ninth, when Freddie Freeman hit a game-tying home run as Odúbel Herrera mistimed his jump at the wall. They watched José Alvarado walk three batters and allow runs to score on a wild pitch and a passed ball in the 10th.
But Jean Segura saved the day with his second clutch hit in three innings in a 4-3 walk-off victory in 10 innings.
It is the first time the Phils have enjoyed back-to-back walk-off wins since June 26-27, 2019.
Williams’ dramatic walk-off homer on Wednesday in his first big league start got things started. Numerous Phillies said afterward that they hoped it could be the moment to spark them into better, more consistent play.
“All year long, we haven’t had those types of games,” Segura said. “I think the walk-off yesterday was huge. It gave us momentum to play a little bit better. To be able to win this one today, to come from behind, especially when we gave it up in the 10th, that’s huge. That tells you what type of team, and what type of ability, we have to play this game. I think if we keep it together like that, I think this team could be really, really good.”
Alec Bohm’s single to right scored automatic runner Rafael Marchan to start the 10th and cut Atlanta's lead to 3-2. Herrera then ripped a double down the left-field line to put runners on second and third.
Segura crushed Chris Martin’s 0-1 slider off the top of the left-center-field wall. The ball kicked back toward left field to allow Bohm and Herrera to score easily. Segura sprinted into left field before teammates caught him and mobbed him.
“I thought it was enough to walk it off for me, so that’s why I pimped it a little bit,” Segura said.
The Phillies improved to 30-31 and moved a half-game in front of the Braves. They have won consecutive series for the first time since they opened the season 5-1 against the Braves and Mets.
“When you're struggling a little bit, here and there, you look for these type of moments,” Wheeler said. “Yesterday speaks for itself. It doesn't matter how we get the win, as long as we can get it. These past two days have been exciting, and hopefully, we can carry that into this weekend.”
Wheeler struck out 12 without a walk in eight scoreless innings. He is 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA. The Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Philadelphia pitcher to have at least five double-digit-strikeout games before July since Cliff Lee had six in 2011. Wheeler is also the first Phils pitcher to have two starts with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in a season since 1891.
He should make his first National League All-Star team.
“I don’t know why he’s not being mentioned way more,” Segura said. “He deserves to get more mention by the league, by everybody. Because his stuff is really, really good.”
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the eighth when Herrera and Segura hit back-to-back doubles. But then Herrera just missed catching Freeman’s game-tying homer off closer Héctor Neris in the ninth. Herrera got turned around a bit at the end and mistimed his jump.
“I think it’s catchable,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think it’s a ball he should have caught.”
Alvarado started the 10th. He throws 100 mph, but the velocity comes with a caveat -- sometimes he cannot throw strikes. He walked three Atlanta hitters. A run scored on a wild pitch. Another scored on a passed ball. Marchan was upset with himself afterward for failing to block both pitches. Girardi told him that he had no chance because Alvarado was throwing so wildly.
Alvarado has walked an eye-popping 22 batters 21 2/3 innings this season. He has struck out 28.
“It’s what you’re going to get,” Girardi said. “You’re going to get ground balls, strikeouts and walks. I really like the idea of two of the things you’re going to get. You know you’re getting ground balls and strikeouts. I mean, [the wildness] happens to him.”
Alvarado got out of the inning by getting Freeman to ground out. It was his last batter.
It gave the Phils a sliver of hope.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Segura said about his clutch hits. “Every time you get a clutch hit, that’s a really good feeling. That’s the beauty of baseball: When you get those walk-offs, when you get in those tight games and situations, and when you come through, that’s what people most look at.”