The fly ball that somehow fell between Odúbel Herrera and Bryce Harper on Wednesday night no longer felt as costly as Herrera flipped his bat after homering in the ninth inning. The frustration from that defensive lapse — which ended with the outfielders crashing into each other as the Nationals took the lead — was alleviated when Harper singled in the 10th inning of a 5-2 win in Washington.
Harper and Herrera cost the Phillies a run when they failed to track down a routine fly ball in the sixth inning. It was another crushing miscue by a poor defensive team, seeming to seal yet another maddening road loss.
But then Herrera tied the game in the ninth with a homer off Washington closer Brad Hand, who had not allowed a homer since 2019. And Harper started the 10th by reaching across the plate to drop Hand’s slider into left field for a single. The Phillies had a rally. Soon, they would have a three-run lead. Herrera and Harper were off the hook.
“That’s the great thing about this game. You always get a chance to atone for your mistakes,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And you know, sometimes it’s the next day, but fortunately for us, it was tonight. Harp had some big hits tonight. Odubel had a big hit. Just a really good job.”
The win gives the Phillies their first series win on the road of three games or more since September 2019. They earned it behind six innings from Zack Wheeler, who struck out seven batters and kept the Phillies afloat even when they dropped routine fly balls. Connor Brogdon, Ranger Suarez, Jose Alvarado, and Hector Neris combined for four scoreless innings as the bullpen kept the game within reach.
Rhys Hoskins followed Harper in the 10th by driving in the go-ahead run before Nick Maton and Andrew Knapp padded the lead with RBI singles. It took 10 innings, but the Phillies had a rally. And it was all possible because the two outfielders redeemed themselves.
“Just miscommunication on the ball. That’s pretty much what it was,” Harper said. “One of us need to take control right there and get that out. Wheeler doesn’t deserve that, the way he was pitching tonight. I think as a team we weren’t going to let him get that loss tonight, especially with the way he was throwing. Just definitely a miscommunication. We need to be better out there. That won’t happen again with me and him out there.”
In the sixth, Herrera and Harper lost track of Alex Avila’s fly ball to right field. Instead of a routine play, the ball fell to the warning track and was ruled an RBI triple. By the time Herrera retrieved the ball, the Nationals were sending the go-ahead run around third base.
“That kind of stuff happens throughout the season,” said Wheeler, who allowed two runs in six innings. “That’s something that obviously I can’t help with out there but that type of stuff is going to happen. That comes back on me to pick them up. I was able to get out of that inning after that. It’s tough to deal with out there, but things happen during the course of the season and you have to pick them up. He picked us up right there at the end and that’s why he’s one of the best in the game.
The misplay may not have felt as important had the Phillies been able to score. Andrew Knapp’s single in the second produced the lineup’s lone run until Herrera’s tying homer. And perhaps they could have scored had they not lost a pair of runs on the base paths.
The Phillies lost a run at home plate in the fifth when Herrera was thrown out to end the inning and they may have lost another in the seventh when Brad Miller was held at third base on a single to right.
The Phillies tested left fielder Kyle Schwarber’s arm by sending Herrera, but his throw beat him easily. If Herrera stayed at third, Hoskins would have had a chance with the bases loaded and two outs. Two innings later, they decided not to have Miller test the arm of Juan Soto — who missed time last month with a sore shoulder — and the throw was off the mark.
“I think he’s going to be out. I do,” Girardi said. “And you got Harp coming up, who swung the bat pretty good. I think he’s going to be out. I do.”
Knapp caught in place of J.T. Realmuto, who Joe Girardi said is considered “day to day” after leaving Tuesday night’s game when a foul tip hit him in the knee.
The Phillies lost another starter Wednesday night in the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius left the game with stiffness in his right elbow. The shortstop missed three games last month with inflammation in his elbow after being hit by a pitch. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout Wednesday.
“It just kind of acted up,” Girardi said. “He didn’t feel it in BP. He must have taken a swing in the game that he felt it and he told us. I think it was after his second at-bat maybe. And that’s when we made the switch. I’m not exactly sure if he told us just after he hit or and that’s why we put Maton on. So I imagine he might be out a couple days, like the last time. We’re just going to have to evaluate it tomorrow.”
Herrera’s two hits on Wednesday gave him nine hits in his last seven games. The Phillies are finally receiving production from center field as Herrera is the first player to take control of the position this season.
He agreed with Harper that the fly ball was a miscommunication. They have to make that catch, Herrera said. Three innings later, he stepped in against Hand — one of baseball’s premier relievers — with a chance to make up for it.
“I was ready to hit,” Herrera said. “I was ready to see the ball and hit it. He threw me a hanging breaking ball. I recognized it and I put a good swing on it.”
Herrera drove Hand’s slider 414 feet to center field, tying the score at 2. The misplay in right field was not forgotten, but it no longer defined the night. Herrera and Harper gave away a run, but they helped the Phillies leave with a win.
“I think Odúbel , he just goes up there not really thinking about anything, just trying to put bat to ball. You guys can figure out what I’m saying,” Harper said. “He’s great. He just goes up there, bat to ball, and I mean, it’s really impressive what he did tonight. And the way he’s having his at-bats the last couple games, seeing his pitches, walking, getting comfortable, right? Being able to get in the box and see pitches and take his walks and be the dominant threat that he is in the batter’s box.”