It took not one but two perfect throws. It took a lunging stop and a swipe tag by catcher Andrew Knapp on a bang-bang play at the plate. It took a video-replay review to confirm the call on the field.
That’s all it took for Brandon Workman to record his first save for the Phillies.
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In a breath-taking finish Sunday night, the Atlanta Braves thought they tied the game on Freddie Freeman’s two-out double to the gap in left-center field. One run scored easily, but shortstop Didi Gregorius’ relay throw from center fielder Roman Quinn reached home plate at precisely the same time as Dansby Swanson. Knapp applied the tag, preserving a sweep-averting 5-4 victory at Truist Park.
"We really needed that win," said Knapp, whose victory scream after showing the ball to home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz underscored that sentiment. "It's one of those wins that you look at at the end of the season and say, 'Man, that really turned our season around.'"
Well, the Phillies hope so.
One step at a time, though, and by edging the Braves, the Phillies snapped a five-game losing streak. They also improved their record to 10-14, and with 36 games remaining (in 34 days after Monday's day off), they're four games behind the division-leading Braves and two behind the second-place Miami Marlins in a National League East that remains entirely up for grabs.
That's the macro view. On a micro level, the bullpen ought to derive some confidence from this victory. In his Phillies debut, Heath Hembree stranded two inherited runners in the sixth inning, then pitched a scoreless seventh before Tommy Hunter recorded three outs in the eighth.
Then there’s Workman, who got some redemption after blowing a save and giving up the winning run one night earlier after being acquired with Hembree in a trade with the Boston Red Sox late Friday night. Workman said it wasn’t the first impression that he hoped to make. Giving up a leadoff single and a one-out walk in the ninth inning Sunday wasn’t great either, but hey, all’s well that ends well.
Maybe Workman will buy dinner for Quinn, Gregorius and Knapp (take-out, of course, and enjoyed from an appropriate social distance in a hotel dining room) Monday night in Washington.
Although Gregorius' relay throw was on time, it was slightly off line, pulling Knapp into the baseline. Swanson slid headfirst and appeared to try to jab the ball out of Knapp's glove. But Knapp held on to complete the play.
“Thankfully that throw kind of took me into the line, so I was able to take it into the tag with me,” Knapp said. “I just knew, whether or not I had the ball, I wasn’t going to let him get to the plate. It was kind of a do-or-die play, and I ended up coming up with it.”
The Braves challenged to make sure that Knapp didn't block the plate. Because the throw took Knapp into the baseline, he wasn't in violation of that rule.
"I set up before the throw giving him a lane, and then the throw just took me in that line," Knapp said. "You never know with those calls, so I'm really glad it went our way. But it seemed like it was the right call."
Said manager Joe Girardi: “It’s a great play by Knapp. I’m never crazy about guys sliding headfirst into catchers. I tell our runners never to do it. But [Knapp] did everything right. He got low. He gave [Swanson] the back edge of the plate. He had to step into it. He cradled it, put two hands around it, and made a tag. It was just a textbook play.”
The Phillies built a 4-0 lead by playing home-run derby for three innings against Braves starter Josh Tomlin, including Alec Bohm’s first big-league homer. Bohm smashed a 446-footer into a pond beyond the fence in straightaway center field in the second inning.
"There was like three people in the last day that said, 'You know, you're going to hit a homer tomorrow,' and here we are," said Bohm, who identified the prophets as Neil Walker, Hunter and Phil Gosselin.
And yes, Bohm got the ball back when a Braves employee fished it out.
"They gave it back to me in a cup of water," Bohm said.
Rhys Hoskins and Gregorius went deep in the third inning. But the Braves cut the margin to 4-3 against starter Zach Eflin, and although the Phillies stretched it back to 5-3 on Andrew McCutchen's RBI single in the fourth inning, the Phillies left the bases loaded in both the fourth and fifth.
Hembree was the first reliever out of the bullpen for Girardi in the sixth, and he bailed Eflin out of a two-in, one-out jam.