Odubel Herrera held his bat near home plate on Wednesday afternoon, as he lingered to watch what he had just done.
His seventh-inning home run — the one that sealed a 4-3 win over St. Louis — deserved to be admired. It was a blast, a no-doubt-about-it shot that rocked off the right-field video board, 422 feet from home plate. And it was was his fourth-straight game with a homer, and his fifth in six days. After a brutal four-week slump, things are starting to turn around for the player who sparks the Phillies lineup.
So, it's difficult to fault Herrera for taking a moment to soak it all in.
Herrera hammered righthander Sam Tuivailala's slider after laying off a pair of fastballs. He appeared to know the slider was coming and jumped on it. Herrera went 3 for 4 and has 13 hits in his last 31 at-bats. Wednesday's was his fifth multi-hit game in the last week.
"Fresh," Herrera described what that go-ahead homer felt like.
The Fresh Prince of South Philly then expounded.
"It actually felt great," Herrera said. "From the moment I hit the ball, I knew it was gone. In a way, it was very satisfying, because I could see how the pitcher was trying to mess up my timing, so we had a good battle going on. And I won it."
The win gave the Phillies their third-straight series win. They have won seven of their last 10 games, as they gear up for a key series this weekend in Washington. Their lineup, after a dormant stretch, is starting to show signs of life at the right time.
Rhys Hoskins reached base three times on Wednesday, and Cesar Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the fourth. The Phillies are grinding out at-bats — "Philly style," as manager Gabe Kapler describes them — as they did early in the season.
Hoskins has a 1.142 OPS in 11 games since he strapped on a double-flapped helmet to protect his fractured jaw. Herrera has a 1.405 OPS in the last week, after he sat on the bench for a game following a .477 OPS over the previous month. The lineup has a different look when those two are producing.
"I think it's night and day, because of how good the at-bats are," Kapler said of Hoskins and Herrera. "Not just the outcomes of the at-bats, but it's how dangerous they both look in the batter's box. Rhys looks like he's going to hit a double or a homer every time he goes up there right now."
Herrera's homer gave the Phillies a one-run lead, and the bullpen, a recent cause of angst for fans, did enough to hang on. Austin Davis made his major-league debut to help Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano, and Adam Morgan piece together the final three innings. Kapler called on Arano in the ninth, and the righthander recorded an out before giving up a double. Morgan, who struggled in Monday's ninth inning, got redemption by retiring the two batters he faced and earning his first career save.
The home run also bailed out Jake Arrieta, who allowed three runs in six innings. Arrieta held the Cardinals to just four hits, but two of them were home runs by Yadier Molina. The second homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, tied the game at 3. But then Herrera struck back.
Arrieta compared Herrera to Vladimir Guerrero, who will enter the Hall of Fame next month.
"He's got tremendous eye-hand coordination," Arrieta said of his teammate. "He's able to put the barrel of the bat on really good pitches, which is very unique, especially with the way his setup is and the way he's got a pretty large leg kick. And he's able to stay balanced and square it up. He's a different breed, and when he gets hot, it's extremely fun to watch."
Kapler compared Herrera to future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. They have similar power strokes and the ability to make contact no matter where the ball is, the manager said.
A single, a double, and a homer — it was a good day to be Herrera.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kapler was on the dugout steps, next to Scott Kingery, when his No. 3 hitter blasted the game-winning shot. Even they had to admire it.
"We just kind of looked at each other in awe. It was one of those 'Wow' moments," Kapler said. "He's so hot, but he's such an incredible athlete. What he's doing, I don't remember seeing. It's really special. It's really elite barrel-accuracy.