Didi Gregorius and Hector Neris help Phillies to dramatic win originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Two days ago, Phillies manager Joe Girardi explained that he was starting Didi Gregorius against a left-handed pitcher because “if we’re going to do anything, Didi’s got to hit.”
Gregorius has not hit much at all this season, especially against same-handed pitching, entering Friday night batting .148 with a .520 OPS against lefties.
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
But with two outs in the seventh inning of a game the Phillies trailed by a run, Gregorius’ three-run home run off of Pirates lefty Chasen Shreve sent the Phillies to an 8-6 win. It rescued the Phils after they tied the MLB record the prior half-inning with their 34th blown save of the season.
The win made the Phillies 80-74 with eight games left. The Braves were scheduled for two games in San Diego on Friday and lost the first one. The Phillies are one game back pending the result of Atlanta’s second game at Petco Park.
It was Gregorius’ second straight night with a home run. He hit his longest homer in at least seven seasons on Thursday, a 438-footer. He has not had a productive year offensively or defensively but has a chance to finish strong and potentially help the Phillies end a nine-season playoff drought.
The Phils won the game without a couple of key relievers. Jose Alvarado had pitched in three straight games. Archie Bradley had pitched in three of four. Ian Kennedy pitched three innings and threw 62 pitches Tuesday and Wednesday. And Girardi likely did not want to use Hector Neris for two full innings for the second time in four days.
Instead, Girardi brought Cam Bedrosian in to begin the seventh inning. The Pirates took a lead on Wilmer Difo’s two-run homer off of Bedrosian and Girardi then went to Neris, who threw 41 pitches to pick up the next five outs.
Neris finished the top of the eighth by snagging a comebacker with the bases loaded and emphatically pounded his glove in triumph.
The final three outs went to Kennedy.
Ronald Torreyes, who has started 43 games at shortstop this season because of Gregorius’ injuries and ineffectiveness, had another huge hit. He came off the bench for a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning, a night after his three-run homer in the sixth put the Phillies ahead. Torreyes has hit .321 in 91 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
Earlier in the night, Bryce Harper drove in a run with his career-high 40th double and Brad Miller hit his 20th home run.
Odubel Herrera, who had three hits on Thursday, crushed a ball off the wall in his second at-bat. As he's prone to do, he admired it and was held to a single. He is not the only player or the only Phillie who does so, but it happens far too often and almost always costs him an extra base.
Herrera was removed from the game an inning later with left ankle soreness.
Kyle Gibson started for the Phillies and gave up four runs in six innings. All four came in the fourth inning after Gibson hit his first career homer in the third. He settled in after the fourth to retire the final six hitters he faced. Gibson has a 4.87 ERA in 11 games with the Phillies, exactly two full runs higher than his 2.87 mark in 19 pre-trade deadline starts with the Rangers.
The Phillies have two more this weekend with the Pirates before moving on to the all-important series in Atlanta. Ranger Suarez (6-5, 1.60) starts Saturday with a dreaded bullpen game looming Sunday.