Not much has gone right for the Phillies lately. They’ve lost games at a frightening pace, and tumbled from first place in the National League East to the extreme fringe of playoff contention. On Friday, thanks to some strong games from a few players who haven’t many of them this season, the Phillies managed to look like an actual good baseball team for one night.
Remember Aaron Altherr? He had somewhat of a breakthrough season in 2017, putting up a .272/.340/.516 season that had many people convinced that he was a part of the long-term future of the Phillies.
At the beginning of the season, Altherr got the majority of starts in right field, but after Nick Williams kept hitting pinch home runs and Altherr hit pretty much nothing, his playing time dwindled. Eventually, Altherr’s struggles became so pronounced that he was banished to the minor leagues, never to be heard from again.
Or was he???
Altherr was recalled at the beginning of September, but was only 1-7 since his return. On Friday, matched against a lefthanded starter in Wei-Yin Chen, manager Gabe Kapler put together a righty-heavy lineup that included Altherr. And for the first time in a while, Altherr proved worthy of the playing time. He got the scoring started in the second with a two-run homer, and added a three-run shot in the fifth.
Seeing double. A pair of gorgeous, towering homers from Aaron Altherr. pic.twitter.com/1eIzMPU5sx— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) September 15, 2018
Altherr wasn’t the only unexpected star of the night. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin had been struggling for the past two months, but he rebounded to pitch 6.1 innings of one-run ball. And perhaps the most surprising contribution came from Mitch Walding.
The young third baseman notoriously began his career by going 0-14. That was bad enough, but he also struck out in his first seven plate appearances - ten times overall. Entering Friday’s game, he was still searching for his first base hit. Pinch hitting for Carlos Santana (who had a 3-3 night of his own) in the eighth inning, he finally got it:
lol Mitch Walding earned this. so happy to see it. pic.twitter.com/GvlSHSzMkw— chris jones ¯\_ _/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) September 15, 2018
Just about everything went right for the Phillies: Their bats came alive, the starting pitcher delivered a quality start, and they only committed one fielding error. (That counts as a good night for them!) And hey, even the out of town scoreboard was delivering some good news:
The Cubs, Diamondbacks, Brewers and Cardinals are all either tied or losing so far tonight. I think the #Phillies’ best chance at a postseason spot is the 2nd Wild Card at this juncture. pic.twitter.com/8NgsSUMQwa— Matt Rappa (@mattrappasports) September 15, 2018
I realize that the playoffs are still a very distant possibility at this point, but after a game in which Mitch Walding hits one into the seats, maybe it’s okay to dream, just for one night.