After two days of voting on all of MLB, it's time for the Phillies portion to get underway. When asking commenters and TGP writers about their nominees for Phillies defensive play of the year, one name came up continuously. Odubel Herrera. The Phillies' 2015 rule 5 pick and converted infielder played center field for the first time in his career, and became one of the most dynamic and interesting (not to mention surprising) players on the Phillies this year. He was also the most important player in the Cole Hamels no-hitter besides Hamels himself.
I entertained the idea of making this an all-Herrera slate, but I couldn't justify it. Herrera wasn't alone in making great defensive plays this year. His young teammates Aaron Altherr and Maikel Franco also make an appearance on this list.
7/24/2015: Maikel Franco's barehanded play vs. the Cubs
The day before Cole Hamels' no-hitter (which we'll hear more about momentarily), the Phillies and the Cubs played their series opener at Wrigley Field. Down 3-2 in the eighth, David Ross came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Ross bunted toward third, and it began to die as it rolled through the infield. But Maikel Franco came to the rescue.
Franco's barehanded grab bailed Jeanmar Gomez out of trouble and kept the score right where it was. The Phillies would tie it in the ninth, giving Jeff Francoeur the opportunity to hit a two-run homer in the 10th, which gave the Phillies the first of three straight wins against the Cubs.
7/25/2015: Odubel Herrera's first no-no saving grab vs. the Cubs
Odubel Herrera played a very important role in Cole Hamels' first solo no-hitter. He made two key catches, both of which preserved the no-no and cemented his place in Phillies lore for decades to come. Here's the first one.
It looked like this one could leave the yard or get lost in the ivy. My breath caught in my throat when the ball was hit. But in ran Odubel Herrera with his big strides and outstretched glove to snag the ball before tumbling into the dirt. It could have been over if not for Odubel Herrera, whose name is too much fun to shorten to just Herrera.
7/25/2015: Odubel Herrera makes the final heart pounding catch of Hamels' no-no vs. the Cubs
Heart pounding doesn't begin to describe it. It was the final out of what would be a no-hitter, but at the time it wasn't one yet. There was still that final, pesky out to make, and with Hamels over 120 pitches, he had to finish it right then or take a seat on the bench. Hamels threw his 129th pitch of the game to Kris Bryant who launched it to deep center field. The ball wouldn't go out, it wouldn't come very close, but Odubel Herrera kept backing up on the warning track, watching the ball, waiting for it to come to him and land in his glove. Only it didn't quite make it all the way to him.
He realized just in time. He stopped, saw that he had overrun the ball, and opened his glove. His belly flop stumble was perfectly timed, and just as the ball fell into his glove, he raised a triumphant fist.
9/7/2015: Aaron Altherr's leaping catch and double play vs. the Braves
Aaron Altherr surprised a lot of people, including me, in his short time with the Phillies this season. He made a number of impressive plays, but this one from early September sticks in my mind.
He hadn't quite made it all the way to the rapidly falling baseball, but Altherr and his long, lithe limbs leapt off the ground, reached out, and plucked the white leather orb from the sky. As if that wasn't enough, he stops himself without crashing against the outfield wall, plants his feet, and throws to Ryan Howard, doubling off the runner and ending the inning. It wasn't a big important game, but in a season like the Phillies had, there are so very, very few of those kinds of games. It's about doing the little things right, and even with a little flair.
Well now that I've watched the young future of the team AND two clips of handsome, bearded Cole Hamels' no-hitter, I have all the feelings. All of them. I have no clue which one of these I'm voting for. Hopefully you do! Cast your vote below!