More than a month has passed since the Phillies traded for Asdrubal Cabrera because they thought he could bring more offense to a lineup that tends to run cold.
On Friday night, Cabrera delivered.
Cabrera lined a solo home run to left-center field in the 10th inning to complete a 2-1 comeback victory over the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. At the close of August, the Phillies are two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. There are 28 games remaining in the season, including seven head-to-head matchups with Atlanta in the final 11 games.
"That's why we traded for him," manager Gabe Kapler said of Cabrera. "Biggest moment, righthanded pitcher on the mound, ball sinking away from him, he's got that sweet stroke. Absolutely demolished that ball to left-center field. That was a really good celebration in the dugout."
Kapler has been talking a lot about celebrating lately. The Phillies began the season with the youngest roster in baseball, and although they have traded for veterans such as Cabrera, catcher Wilson Ramos and outfielder Jose Bautista within the last few weeks, the large majority of the players in the clubhouse have never before experienced a pennant race.
Over the last five months, but particularly over the last few weeks, the Phillies have endured some crushing losses. Thus far, they have been resilient. But it's September now. The stakes are higher. A division title hangs in the balance, and Kapler and his coaches have reminded individual players about the importance of not letting the moment overwhelm them.
"One of the things that we've stressed recently is, in these times that kind of get a little bit stressful, we're going to smile, we're going to have fun," Kapler said. "We're going to laugh."
Walk-off victories help with that. Cabrera swatted a 1-2 pitch from Cubs closer Steve Cishek over the left-field fence for his fifth career game-ending blast and first since he took now-teammate Edubray Ramos deep to win a game for the New York Mets in 2016.
After Cabrera rounded the bases, met his jubilant teammates at home plate and stepped in front of a television camera for a postgame interview, Cesar Hernandez and rookie Scott Kingery emerged from the dugout with an ice bucket to give him a shower.
"When you fight for a win like that, it helps the young guys to keep their head up," said Cabrera, who is only 25 for 114 (.219) since joining the Phillies but has slugged three home runs. "We're trying to show the young guys how cool it is to win games like that."
Through five innings, the Phillies were silenced by Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who retired 14 batters in a row between Wilson Ramos' first-inning single and Roman Quinn's one-out double in the sixth. Two batters after Quinn's hit, Cesar Hernandez laced an RBI single to tie the game.
From there, the Phillies' bullpen took over.
After starter Nick Pivetta pitched in and out of trouble for five innings, Victor Arano, Adam Morgan, Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris and Pat Neshek combined for five scoreless frames. Dominguez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by striking out pinch-hitting Victor Caratini on three pitches. Neris, the resurgent former closer who was banished to triple-A in June, was dominant once again.
"I can not dote on our bullpen enough. They have just come up so many times," Kapler said. "We have ridden them so hard, and we put them in incredibly difficult, unique, new positions for all of them, and they've just answered the bell continually."
This series marks the first meeting between the Phillies and the NL-leading Cubs since early June in Chicago. And although the Phils dropped two of the three games at Wrigley Field, they played the Cubs almost evenly. They were outscored by only a 14-11 margin and continued to prove they could hang with the best teams in the league.
By now, there's no longer any questioning that point.
All that remains unanswered is whether the Phillies can hang with them in the playoffs, too.