Pete Mackanin hoped Tyler Goeddel would launch the perfect throw. The outfielder did. Goeddel fired a strike from left field to home plate on Saturday night with two outs in the ninth inning.
Cameron Rupp hoped he would be able to keep his grip on the ball and seal a 4-3 win over Cincinnati at Citizens Bank Park. Rupp certainly did.
The catcher nabbed Goeddel's throw and survived a nasty crash at home plate to finish a wild win. The throw brought Rupp a shade to his left and into the path of Eugenio Suarez, who had tagged up and was sprinting from third base.
Rupp lowered his 6-foot-1, 240-pound frame as Suarez (5-11, 205 pounds) neared home just as the ball entered Rupp's mitt. Rupp was a high school linebacker and fullback in Texas. He said he's used to hitting people, but not familiar with getting hit.
"He's a big man," Mackanin said. "I wouldn't want to run into him."
Suarez crashed into Rupp near home plate, and Rupp rolled over onto his chest. Rupp held up the baseball in his right hand. The game was over. The Phillies had won.
"I was just thinking, 'Hold on to that ball for dear life. Don't let it go.' Whatever happens, happens," Rupp said. "I sacrificed everything. That's my plate. I'm not letting them get to it."
Aaron Nola watched the final sequence on a TV in the trainer's room outside the Phillies clubhouse.
"Dang, that's pretty deep," he thought as David Hernandez's offering was smacked to left field. Nola knew Goeddel had to make a perfect throw if the pitcher's seven innings of work were not to be wasted.
The throw and catch preserved Nola's win. He struck out nine and walked one in seven innings. It was Nola's 50th professional start since the Phillies drafted him in the first round in 2014. Nola's season WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) remained at 0.85, the second-lowest mark in the National League, behind only that of Clayton Kershaw. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.44) is the fourth-highest in baseball.
Nola has pitched with so much poise that it is hard to remember that next month will mark just the two-year anniversary of his first professional start with high-A Clearwater.
"It's been awesome. Everything I dreamed of it being," Nola said. "It's really good now, because we've been winning a good bit of games and pulling out close games. It's a good group of guys, and we're all having fun."
The win put the Phillies (22-15) at seven games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season, when they finished with a 102-60 record. It also marked the first time that they have won six of seven series since June 2011. They have won six straight games at home for the first time since June 2013. It has been a while, but the Phillies are again feeling what it is like to win.
The Phillies players rushed to home plate after the final out, readying to celebrate their 14th one-run win of the season. Nine of the team's last 10 wins have been decided by one run. But the celebration was halted. Rupp stayed on the ground, and the Reds challenged that Rupp was blocking the plate.
The perfect throw and catch were tested by replay. The Phillies waited, Rupp returned to his feet, and the umpires ruled that the runner was out. The celebration started anew. Rupp later walked through the clubhouse with a slight limp as music blared from a speaker.
All was good, he said. The Phillies had won on the perfect play.