ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Phillies have been seeking more production from their corner outfielders all season, but help may soon be on the way. Nick Williams is heating up at Triple A, and if he continues to provide moments like he did in Lehigh Valley's 6-4 victory on Tuesday, a big-league call-up could come soon.
Williams crushed a walk-off home run over the high right field fence at Coca-Cola Park in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday to put the exclamation point on another solid night at the plate. Since getting off to a slow start, the 22-year-old has reached base safely in 13 of his last 17 contests, and he's been a force over the past two weeks especially, batting .395 with five multi-hit games.
Williams was hitting below .200 as recently as April 20, but he stuck to his approach, and is now up to .289 for the season.
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"Really just not to extremely panic," Williams said of how he broke out of his early slump. "There were a few times I was really bothered, but really just not panic because I know my dad always tells me, 'Just keep swinging the bat, hitters are gonna hit.'
"I've been in a situation like this before, kept swinging and started finding success, so I just wanted to stay with my plan and eventually come out of it."
It was not the start many envisioned for the left-handed hitter. Ironically, perhaps the pressure of wanting to prove he belonged in the majors contributed to Williams' woes.
"I think that was a little bit why I was struggling," Williams admitted. "I was looking at stats online, reading and social media, stuff like that, and I just came to realize it's not my decision. I can't put myself in the big leagues.
"I'm just gonna be where I am, help my team win and do whatever I can to get better."
Tough to blame him for looking ahead a little. Acquired from the Texas Rangers in last year's Cole Hamels trade, Williams hit .303 at Double A last season. He also flashed some power, with 26 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs in 119 games between the two systems - production that would look pretty solid in the Phillies' last-place offense right now.
Williams hit only .227 this spring at his first big-league camp, but Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was still impressed by what he saw.
"I really like him," Mackanin said last month. "I think you can tell by the way he swings the bat that he has a chance to have a good future in the big leagues."
Mackanin's statements came after Williams took apart the club's big-leaguers in the Phillies Futures Series, specifically following his 2 for 2, three-RBI performance - including a solo home run - at Citizens Bank Park. While it was Williams' last chance to impress the coaching staff, he insists there wasn't any extra motivation there.
"We were in the big field, and I was like, 'You know what? This is awesome to be in this position right now.' We were facing our big-league team, so I want to say I'm real confident, but I didn't want to say I was going up there saying I was gonna do this and that. I just loved the experience and was honored to be a part of it.
"It was awesome. We got to take BP there the day before, and I was like, 'Man, I love this field.' It was great, the fans were awesome and it was just a great experience."
Despite the recent hot streak, it's unclear whether a promotion is looming for Williams. There's plenty of competition between corner outfielders at Triple A now that Cedric Hunter is hitting (.367 in 10 games) and with Cam Perkins riding a 15-game hitting streak (.386).
And while Williams is definitely swinging the bat better, the power numbers are still lagging a bit behind. He has just five extra-base hits on the season, and the bomb on Tuesday was only his second.
Now that Williams has the right mentality, it might not be a good idea to bet against him. In addition to his clutch hit, he made a huge catch in the eighth inning, running down a ball and nearly crashing into the wall in left-center field to save what could've been a go-ahead run.
He made the play look easy.
"I said, 'Even if I'm gonna run through this wall or this wall beats me, I'm gonna catch the ball.'"
That attitude, along with his obvious ability, should carry Williams far.