MILWAUKEE – To understand what the Phillies did Tuesday night, you have to go back to July 28 of last year.
That was the last time Josh Hader gave up a run in a regular-season game.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ All-Star closer had racked up 40 straight scoreless appearances when he trotted out of the bullpen to try to protect a one-run lead against the Phillies. One more goose egg and Hader would set a major-league record with 41 straight scoreless appearances.
A week ago, when darkness dominated the Phillies’ world, Hader would have gotten that record.
But not now.
It’s a whole new world for the Phillies. They have a new manager. They’re hitting ninth-inning home runs, three in the last two games. Corey Knebel is getting out of bases-loaded jams. They are winning. And the music is blaring so loud in the clubhouse that you can barely hear Alec Bohm talking about maybe the best moment of his major-league career.
Bohm was the first batter Hader faced in the ninth inning Tuesday night. He launched a game-tying solo homer to left-center.
Matt Vierling was the third batter Hader faced in the inning. He launched a go-ahead, pinch-hit homer to left-center.
The two huge homers lifted the Phillies to a 3-2 win – their fourth straight under new skipper Rob Thomson and fifth straight overall – and denied Hader his record-setting 41st goose egg.
“Somebody’s got to get him at some point, right?” Bohm said above blaring speakers in the winning clubhouse. “Why not us, I guess?
“Nobody is perfect in this game. I guess eventually the game will get you and I guess that’s just what happened tonight.”
The home run was just the fourth of the season for Bohm, who was hitting .190 in his previous 19 games.
Hader, a hard-throwing lefty with a deceptive delivery, had been 18 for 18 in save chances this season when Bohm strode to the plate with his team down a run in the top of the ninth. Before the at-bat, Bohm received some advice from Nick Castellanos, who’d faced Hader often during his time in the NL Central with Cincinnati.
“Nick told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to try and pull him,'” Bohm said. “That’s not something I really normally do. I’m thankful for him.”
Bohm got on top of a 96.4 mph fastball from Hader and drove it over the wall in the left-center. The Phillies’ dugout was still going bonkers when Vierling was sent up to pinch-hit for Mickey Moniak. Wierling opened the season with the Phils but was shipped to the minors a month ago after hitting .170. He was recalled from Triple A along with Scott Kingery earlier in the day when the Phils placed Zack Wheeler on paternity leave and Johan Camargo on the injured list.
Vierling began the day in Omaha with the Lehigh Valley club. He and Kingery flew to Chicago, rented a car and got to the ballpark in Milwaukee at about 2 pm Eight hours later, Vierling found himself coming off the bench to face one of the game’s nastiest relievers. He clubbed a 1-2 slider over the wall in the left-center to give the Phils the lead.
“Just a whirlwind,” Vierling said of his day. “Getting to come back. Getting the opportunity and doing that – it’s pretty cool.”
Vierling was asked where the homer ranked on his personal highlight reel.
“It’s probably number one,” he said. “It’s up there. Yeah. Pretty cool.”
After taking the lead, the Phils had to sweat out the bottom of the ninth as Knebel walked three batters to load the bases before striking out Pablo Reyes to end the game. Knebel threw 32 pitches – 17 strikes and 15 balls.
Connor Brogdon pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Ranger Suarez, inconsistent much of the season, had his best outing – seven innings, two runs, no walks. It was definitely something to build on for the left-hander, who had walked 4.1 batters per nine innings in 10 starts coming into the game.
Suarez ‘performance was huge. He kept the game close on a night when the Phils squandered a bunch of early scoring chances and gave the offense a chance to come alive in the ninth.
The Phils are undefeated in four games since Thomson took over for Joe Girardi. They are 26-29 overall and the hopelessness of a week ago has been replaced by, well, hope.
Does Thomson have to pinch himself a little?
“Yeah, I mean, they’ve played great and it’s been exciting,” he said. “They’re doing what they need to do. We believe this is a good club and the pieces are here to win games. We just didn’t play consistent early and maybe we’re getting on a roll here.”
Aaron Nola will look to keep the roll going Wednesday night.
“Everybody is kind of coming together,” Bohm said. “With all the talent we have, it’s hard to say the luck we were having wasn’t going to turn. We just kept at it, kept working, put our heads down and kept fighting. And now we’re seeing a little reward from it. We’re stringing together a few wins. “
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