When the Phillies looked ahead to this week’s West Coast trip, they hoped Didi Gregorius would be able to play after missing a month with a swollen right elbow. But the stiffness came back during the shortstop’s minor-league rehab assignment last week. It’s not clear how much longer he will be out.
Otherwise, the Phillies couldn’t have had a better weekend.
A two-game visit from the Yankees brought announced crowds of 38,450 and 38,512 to Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won both games, including Sunday’s 7-0 romp, and have won four in a row and seven of nine overall. At 32-31, they’re over .500 for the first time since May 19.
So, bring on the Dodgers and Giants, the teams with the two best records in the National League.
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Versatile Phillies rookie Luke Williams caught in high school
Luke Williams doesn’t pack light.
Williams plays seven positions in the infield and the outfield, which means he carries multiple gloves. Eight, to be exact. The versatile Phillies rookie says he has one equipment bag dedicated only to gloves and shoes.
“And the crazy part,” said Tom Faris, Williams’ former high school coach in southern California, “is the Phillies don’t know that this kid can catch.”
True story. Williams, whose dreamy month continues when the Phillies play this week at Dodger Stadium — a straight, hourlong shot north on the I-5 freeway from his hometown of Laguna Niguel, Calif. — was mostly a shortstop at Dana Hills High School. But he would occasionally get behind the plate, Faris recalled, for the second game of doubleheaders or whenever teammate Jay Schuyler needed a breather.
The Phillies drafted Williams out of high school in the third round in 2015 and quickly recognized they could play him all over the field. He started games at all four infield and three outfield spots in the minor leagues and got called up last week in part because of his positional flexibility.
Among Williams’ highlights so far: a drag bunt for a single in his first at-bat, a double, and a two-run walk-off homer Wednesday night to beat the Braves. Oh, and he has played four positions (shortstop, center field, third base, and second base) in five games.
Somehow, though, Williams has kept his catching experience a secret since he’s been in pro ball.
“When he comes back, we always tell him, ‘Would you please tell your minor-league [coaches] that you can catch?’” Faris said by phone the other day. “I kid him. I say, ‘Hey, you can get away with hitting .220 as a catcher, bro, but you’re not going to get away with it in the outfield.’
“Even now, the last time he came out, I said, ‘Hey, go get behind the plate. Let’s do some pop times to second base.’ And he was like 1.92 and 1.95 [seconds] barely warming up. Because he’s so athletic, he jumps out of the pocket. He’s got a good arm, and it’s such a quick release. It’s pretty amazing.”
Faris paused, almost for effect.
“If he knew I was telling you this stuff about catching,” he said, “he might murder me. I think he’s trying to keep that as quiet as possible.”
Williams figures to have a vocal rooting section of friends and family at Dodger Stadium this week. Faris plans to take his two sons to Tuesday night’s game.
“He knows we might be coming,” Faris said. “I don’t want to get in the way of his fun. I know he’s pretty busy with all of his friends and everything. But I do want to be the guy that yells at him from the outfield and says, ‘Your pants are too tight,’ or something. He’ll know it’s me.”
In the NL, the road to the playoffs cuts through California like a fault line. The Phillies are about to see where they stack up against two of the league’s best teams.
Aaron Nola pitched on regular rest yesterday and looked great. Also within this story, Andrew McCutchen compares Jean Segura to ... Steph Curry?
Matt Breen caught up with Team USA coach Mike Scioscia, the Delaware County native and World Series-winning manager with the Angels in 2002, for a conversation about Williams.
From the files of trade deadlines past, Dave Dombrowski recalls one of his best acquisitions ever: Darren Daulton, as Bob Brookover writes.
Tonight: Spencer Howard starts West Coast trip in L.A., 10:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin pitches at Dodger Stadium, 10:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Zack Wheeler vs. Clayton Kershaw in L.A. finale, 10:10 p.m.
Thursday: Phillies are off.
Friday: Gabe Kapler’s Giants host the Phillies in San Francisco, 9:45 p.m.
Stat of the day
A week after introducing the “Home Run Hat” as a celebratory custom in the dugout, the Phillies haven’t gotten much use out of their new toy.
Despite scoring 19 runs on 35 hits over the last three games, the Phillies haven’t hit a home run. But they also haven’t struck out as much (only 17 times).
“I love it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Put the ball in play, good things will happen.”
Another recent change for the offense: Odúbel Herrera moved into the leadoff spot and has gone 17-for-48 (.354) with five doubles, two homers, two walks, and only seven strikeouts.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: As I watch the parade of shortstops playing for the Phillies, I could not help but wonder how they compare to what Freddy Galvis has done since he left Philadelphia. I know we miss his defense. But I was curious how his stats lined up against the array of shortstops that played for the Phils. Thanks. — Paul P., via email
Answer: Thanks, Paul. Galvis is having a nice year for the Orioles. Going into yesterday, he was batting .255 with nine homers and a .773 OPS, good value for a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Since the Phillies traded him, he has been a .251 hitter with 52 homers and a .715 OPS for four teams (San Diego, Toronto, Cincinnati, and now Baltimore).
It’s interesting. The Phillies considered a reunion with Galvis last winter but decided to prioritize offense at the shortstop position. Rather than a one-year contract for Galvis or Andrelton Simmons, they opted for the two-year, $28 million deal with Gregorius. It’s early still, but they might wind up with buyer’s remorse.