Phillies win on strength of Nick Williams' grand slam

Phillies Brewers Baseball
Philadelphia Phillies' Nick Williams celebrates his grand slam with teammate Tommy Joseph during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, July 16, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE — When Nick Williams heard Ty Webb’s name announced at Miller Park, he sauntered toward the Phillies dugout for a scouting report on the Brewers lefthanded reliever. Then, Williams remembered the name. He had encountered Webb before in the minors. But not until after he clubbed a grand slam on a first-pitch breaking ball Sunday did Williams recall what happened five weeks ago.

Webb was a Yankees farmhand. Williams had not yet tasted the majors. The two faced each other June 11 in Allentown. Williams swung at the first pitch, a breaking ball. He homered.

He did the same thing Sunday to ignite the Phillies’ 5-2 win. He will not forget that.

“Crazy,” Williams said.

Poll

Can Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera improve in the second half and help prevent the Phillies from a 100-loss season?

Sift through the rubble that is this season, and find these moments, the ones that matter for the rebuilding Phillies. Bases loaded. No outs. Sixth inning. An untested rookie at the plate.

“A lefty, I’m thinking he’s going to start off with some slow stuff,” Williams said. “I just said, ‘Be patient. Find something in the zone, square the ball up. You don’t have to hit a grand slam. Just hit a line drive or something.’ It turned out to be a grand slam.”

Williams dropped his black bat near home plate and watched.

“Go, go, go,” Williams said.

The ball flew to the deepest part of Miller Park where the blue wall in left-center field bulges. It cleared the yellow line, 411 feet from home. He did it.

The kids may not win many games in the season’s final 10 weeks. They will show flashes of progress and commit maddening mistakes. Some are a part of the future. Others are not. But, with one of the youngest rosters in baseball, the Phillies will learn something.

Williams turns 24 in September. He has struck out in 27.6 percent of his big-league plate appearances. He came to the Phillies as an athletic outfielder with a high ceiling, but lacking polish. The game is full of players like Williams. Some have succeeded with a test. Others have not.

“He’s been playing very aggressively,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He swings the bat aggressively. He has some things he has to change with his swing. He has some holes like everybody else does. You have to like the way he’s playing. I like the way he’s swinging the bat. I’m happy with him so far.”

Williams is a low-ball hitter. He did not hit lefties well while at triple A. He had batted just two times against a lefty in the majors before Sunday. Milwaukee acquired Webb last week for situations like this.

For his first act as a Brewer, he hung a curveball.

“It was a mistake,” Mackanin said. “And he jumped all over it. First pitch. Instead of taking it. That’s the kind of thing, you want to be aggressive. You want to see pitches, but with bases loaded, you have to be ready for a mistake first pitch. And he was.”

It was one of 10 hits by a Phillies lineup that did not include Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez or Howie Kendrick. Mackanin has tried 75 different combinations in 90 games. Daniel Nava, 34, batted third Sunday. Tommy Joseph was dropped to sixth. Williams batted seventh.

Odubel Herrera reappeared at the top of Mackanin’s lineup. He is not the epitome of a consistent player. But Herrera wanted to bat higher in the lineup than fifth, sixth or seventh, and Mackanin granted that wish.

“You have to earn your spot in the lineup,” Mackanin said. “Somebody asked me today, ‘What made you decide to hit Herrera first?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I just decided to do it. He’s been swinging the bat pretty well. I wanted to at least maybe give him a little vote of confidence.”

Herrera responded with two doubles, one of which scored a run. He collected five extra-base hits this weekend in Wisconsin. He has 28 doubles this season. The franchise record is 59, by Chuck Klein in 1930. The modern mark is Bobby Abreu’s 50 in 2002.

Williams and Herrera generated the offense. Jeremy Hellickson, who could entice the surprise contenders in Milwaukee, pitched five so-so innings. Ricardo Pinto, Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris did the rest.

The Phillies, in their 90th game, finally captured win No. 30.

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