Jean Segura has jogged into the crosshairs of Philadelphia fans a couple of times this season for not hustling down the first base line. One of his infractions was magnified because it came on the play in which the highly respected Andrew McCutchen suffered a season-ending knee injury back in early June.
So it was all a little ironic that Segura helped the Phillies win an important ballgame Friday night in the very ballpark where McCutchen won the 2013 National League MVP award while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Segura beat out a potential inning-ending double play ball in the seventh inning and that set the table for Bryce Harper's tie-breaking hit in the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Pirates.
An inning after extending the seventh for the red-hot Harper - he has five two-hit games and eight RBIs since the All-Star break - Segura entertained everyone in the ballpark with a grueling 13-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off nine pitches. The at-bat ended with his legging out an infield hit with the bases loaded to turn what was a one-run lead into a two-run lead. The Phillies poured it on after that.
After the game, everyone from manager Gabe Kapler to starting pitcher Jake Arrieta was buzzing about Segura's at-bat and his hustle.
"You can summarize the game by that at-bat, really," Arrieta said. "Against a bullpen guy (Kyle Crick) that's got a really, really good slider and a mid- to upper-90s fastball.
"Look, Segura strained his hamstring early in the season. He's our everyday shortstop. The hustle thing, I think, is a little overblown because you hit a routine groundball to the infield, guys in the big leagues make that play. So, what's the point of being out by two steps versus three or four steps? That doesn't concern us here. He has the understanding and the awareness to know when to really get after it. That at-bat tonight, that groundball is one of those times. I don't want to see him running 100 percent to first base every time. None of the other guys in here do. But in the right situation, like tonight, he does it and it paid off for us."
It was pointed out to Arrieta that Philadelphia fans don't always approve of the type of selective hustle he spoke about.
"But the fans also want him on the field every night so you have to understand the guy at shortstop on the other team is making a ton of money and if the ball's hit to him, he fields it cleanly, he's out," Arrieta said. "I don't care who's running, if it's Billy Hamilton or Roman Quinn or Scott Kingery. The out is usually made. I think people need to understand that. It might not look great, but big-league shortstops, big-league infielders, they field the ball cleanly and they record the out 99 percent of the time. Segura's got a really good feel for the game and he knows when he needs to really get after it."
The Pirates challenged the bang-bang call on Segura's infield hit in the eighth. He beat it by a hair.
"Segura just grinded and grinded and grinded," Kapler said. "The hustle was off the charts. Both beating out the double play ball and he broke right out of the box, never hesitated, smelled the hit, gave us everything he had, and beat it out. It was a huge play in the game."
Segura has been playing in recent days with a bruised left heel.
"I do my best," he said. "I'm still sore a little bit. At the end of the day, I had to hustle and get down the line because the bases are loaded and we're up only 2-1 in the eighth inning. That's huge for us. It got us a couple more runs.
"That's baseball. You play through injuries. You play through pain. It made me feel even better because I know my teammates are behind me and they see that."
Arrieta is also playing through some discomfort. Pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow, he was able to give his team 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He lobbied Kapler to stay in the game with the bases loaded and the game tied in the sixth inning. Kapler won the debate, Juan Nicasio doused the threat and Harper gave the Phils the lead in the seventh.
The Phillies are 4-4 since the All-Star break.
The Pirates are 1-6.
The Phillies, still trying to right themselves after six weeks of hell that dropped them from first place to third in the NL East, need to continue to pour it on Saturday night behind Zach Eflin and an offense that is starting to warm again.
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