Ty Kelly came to the plate Saturday night with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th inning of a tie game. His first instinct was to bunt after he noticed how deep Atlanta third baseman Freddie Freeman was playing.
"Pretty much just made a snap decision to not bunt," Kelly said. "And I swung."
That snap decision produced the winning swing as Kelly drove in Tommy Joseph to cap a 4-3 win. Kelly has played sparingly this season but seems to have a knack for the big moment. His single to center was his fifth go-ahead hit of the year.
"Win the game," Kelly said when asked his approach in those situations. "I just try to do that as much as I can."
Joseph led off the inning with a single to shallow center. He moved to second on a single from Odubel Herrera, who had tied the game with a homer in the ninth. Herrera also singled in Cesar Hernandez in the eighth.
Cameron Rupp loaded the bases with a two-out walk. And then Kelly delivered. Hector Neris, who extended the game with two scoreless innings, earned the win. The Phillies have won seven of their last 10 as they seem to be finding their way after a miserable first half.
"Great win," manager Pete Mackanin said. "That was fun."
Herrera's big night came just three days after he was benched for not running out a dropped third strike Tuesday night. Mackanin yanked him from Tuesday's game and sat him Wednesday after meeting with him in his office. Herrera went 3 for 4 and is batting .337 since June 1 with a .951 OPS.
"It helps sometimes when they sit you down and you have to think about what you've done," Herrera said. "Hopefully I've learned my lesson and it won't happen again. I don't want to be benched or anything. I'm just expecting good things to happen."
The final nine weeks of the Phillies season will be about opportunities. Saturday night was Jesen Therrien's. The rookie righthander delivered. He logged a scoreless sixth inning in his major-league debut. Therrien allowed a leadoff double and then retired three straight batters. The final batter — Brandon Phillips — smoked a grounder off Therrien's foot. The pitcher recovered, grabbed the ball and skipped it to first for an out. Therrien survived.
"It was amazing," Therrien said. "Probably the best feeling I had ever. It was great."
The three trades the Phillies made this past week yielded returns that can not be judged for at least a few seasons. It will be years before decisions can be made on pitchers that are still in single A or on the 16-year-old international free agents the Phillies use those extra bonuses on.
But it is those opportunities the trades created that will have an immediate impact. Trading Pat Neshek to Colorado is what put Therrien in the bullpen. Moving Howie Kendrick to Washington allows Nick Williams to play every day. Sending Jeremy Hellickson to Baltimore inserted Jake Thompson or another young arm into the starting rotation. There were more to the trade deadline moves than just low-level prospects.
Therrien, 24, has the stuff to be a legitimate bullpen threat. His fastball touched 93 mph on Saturday,
and he paired it with his slider. He used the slider to touch the outside corner and freeze Micah Johnson for his first major-league strikeout.
Johnson, peeved by the umpire's call, stood in the batter's box before slowly retreating to the dugout.
Therrien came in relief of Jerad Eickhoff, who allowed three runs in five innings on a night that he did not possess his best command. Eickhoff loaded the bases without an out in the fifth after issuing an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman. The pitcher's night could have derailed then, but Eickhoff retired three of the next four batters he faced. He ended his night with his third strikeout.
"It's been a test all year," Eickhoff said. "To be able to put things in line and make some pitches there at the end, that's the biggest thing. I'm learning from mistakes and that's what it's all about."
Luis Garcia retired four batters after Pedro Beato was injured in his first major-league game in more than three years. Neshek's departure may have created a roster opening for Therrien but it will also thrust Garcia into a more meaningful role. He has not allowed a run in 21 1/3 consecutive innings, the longest single-season streak by a Phillies reliever since Larry Andersen had a 32 2/3 inning streak. Garcia seems to be redefining himself.
Kelly roped his single into the left-center gap and rounded first as if he was headed for second. It was a natural reaction, he said. Kelly was soon mobbed by teammates. Andrew Knapp grabbed him as Joseph and Rupp sprinted in. The Phillies mobbed the night's hero in the infield and soon soaked him with a water cooler. Mackanin even gave Kelly a nickname: Ty-breaker.
"I had to use that," Mackanin said.