Nick Williams took the field for the Phillies for just a few minutes Sunday. The outfielder was out of the lineup for the 11th time in 14 games as manager Gabe Kapler shifts him into a reserve role.
It is those few minutes — the chances Williams gets to show he can deliver — that he must capitalize on. And that’s exactly what Williams did Sunday as he hit a three-run pinch homer to give the Phillies the lead and some much-needed life en route to a 4-2 win over the Mets.
“You have to stay in the game. It’s a hard thing to do as a young player,” Williams said. “But I have to stay ready, stay loose, and you never know what can happen.”
The outfielder was openly disgruntled in the season’s first week when he saw his playing time get pinched. He talked it out with Kapler and the two found common ground. But the majority of the playing time in right field has still gone to Aaron Altherr, who Kapler said last week “earned the right.” Williams has had to adjust to his new role.
“I think this has matured me a lot. It’s a situation I’ve never been in,” Williams said. “I think it’s helped me, in general, grow as a player and a person. I think I am learning the game a lot better. The chances I do get, I feel it’s helping me be a complete hitter. I’ve been taking some tough pitches and working the counts. It’s been helping me as a player.”
Both of Williams’ homers this season have come as pinch hits. He is 7-for-15 with six RBIs as a pinch-hitter and is tied with Chase Utley for the second-most pinch hits in baseball. He’s finally getting comfortable coming off the bench: Williams has four hits in his last six pinch-hit chances.
“Nick Williams. Man, what a tremendous job off the bench,” Kapler said. “What a difficult thing to do. Come off the bench and lay the fat part of the bat on the ball and get the ball out of the ballpark. A really impressive at-bat and it’s a big reward for him because the last couple of days, and maybe even more, he’s matured. His attitude at the ballpark has been tremendous. His work ethic has been outstanding. And he really earned the opportunity to come in and get a big hit for us. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to start a baseball game to win a baseball game for your team. He did that today and I’m really proud of him.”
Williams has developed into a late-inning weapon at the plate, and his success could lead to more regular chances. Williams worked a 2-1 count before connecting on Paul Sewald’s slider. The outfielder struggled last season against the righthander. He knew Sewald wanted him to chase something low. He waited for a pitch he could handle, and he didn’t miss it. He circled the bases after his homer, high-fived teammates and returned to the dugout. Williams made the most of his few minutes.
“He has a lot of energy,” Kapler said. “His work has been tremendous, he has been an exceptional teammate and he comes ready to play in any situation, whether it be starting or coming off the bench. That’s what we ask for out of our guys, selfless, good-teammate behavior. Nick has been exactly those things. A great teammate and selfless.”
The Phillies worked Mets righthander Jacob deGrom for 45 pitches in the first inning by hitting 20 foul balls. He did not allow a run, but the Mets lifted him anyway as a precaution in his first start off the disabled list. … Carlos Santana homered in the eighth inning. He has five homers and 16 RBIs over his last eight games. … Jorge Alfaro had three hits and threw out a baserunner with a 91.3 mph throw to second. It was the fastest caught-stealing throw recorded by MLB’s Statcast since 2015. … The Phillies are off Monday and will stay with their rotation after Saturday’s postponement. Nick Pivetta starts Tuesday at Baltimore and Vince Velasquez pitches Wednesday.