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The smile of Nick Williams: Phillies 5, Marlins 2

Nick Williams smiled and all was right with the world.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the top of the ninth inning, and the Phillies are ahead 3-2. Nick Williams comes to the plate. Your humble recapper looks at the screen from her perch in her bedroom and says “Wouldn’t it be funny if Nick Williams hit a home run here?” And then...

BOOM. Williams hits his third career home run, a two-run opposite field shot, and the Phillies are up 5-2, which ends up being the final score.

And oh man, was he ever happy about it.

He’s got a big mouth full of teeth and it looks so good when he smiles.

That wasn’t all, of course. The Phillies played eight innings before that Williams home run, and it all started rather unceremoniously. Vince Velasquez gave up a homer to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning, and in the top of the second some really bad baserunning was on display. Maikel Franco wasted his own double when he got into a rundown between third and home, and Cameron Rupp showed off his catcher’s quickness when he ran into a tag trying to advance to second. (It was like watching someone run in slow motion.) A run did score, though, so the Phillies and Marlins were tied.

But not for long. In the bottom of the third, JT Riddle hit a perfect bunt that rolled just a few feet up the first base line. Vinny went to get it and then thew wildly into right field. Riddle ended up at third, and then put the Marlins ahead 2-1 thanks to a passed ball.

Thankfully for everyone, especially Vince Velasquez, that was the end of the big mistakes for the Phillies. Vinny defied my expectations for his start tonight. He went six innings and gave up two runs on four hits. Four strikeouts and one walk. But the best news? Just 79 pitches, which is huge for him. Efficiency is a major priority for Velasquez, and it’s great to see him make some progress.

Overall, the Marlins had 5 hits while the Phillies had 13. There’s two sides to the coin, though. The Phillies had 13 hits but left eight men on base. Imagine the game without the ninth inning: 11 hits, eight men left on base, three runs. Not quite as good.

Despite the Phillies’ struggles getting men across the plate, they’re at least getting them on base. And none more so than Maikel Franco. The time away from baseball has seemed to help Franco tremendously. Big Maik went 3-for-4 tonight with a double and a home run. Matt Gelb put it best:

Even better? That ball over the fence is what broke the tie and put the Phillies ahead. Williams may have homered, but it was Franco’s dinger that truly won the game. Have a look.

I’m a little afraid to be excited by progress, because it’s so often fleeting and temporary. But this game was legitimately encouraging, and it’s okay to feel that way.