It took all the way until the bottom of the ninth inning of the eighth game of the season for it to show up, but that special moxie that Philadelphia fell madly in love with in 2022 is still here.

No, you shouldn’t need to wait until the ninth inning, looking to overcome a two-run deficit, to finally have the right approach at the plate and to go all out and whip out tricks that haven’t been used since Little League to gain an advantage, but if you do, then it’s best to do it in style.

The Phillies put together five great at bats in the ninth inning, and, along with a suddenly-spirited sell out crowd, unnerved a pitcher, leading to a three-run rally and a 3-2 victory on a walk-off single by Bryson Stott, to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2.

“It felt like October,” said Stott, who had two more hits, running his season-opening hitting streak to eight games.

And it did. The ninth inning was rocking in the ballpark. It was a reminder of just how good this Phillies team can be, even when it’s as shorthanded as it is right now.

Before we get to the game-winning hit, let’s take a stroll through the inning to see just how it came to be.

First, it should be pointed out that the Phillies struck out 15 times in the first eight innings. They had three hits in eight innings, and mostly because Reds starter Nick Lodolo was dominant.

So much so that he struck out 12 Phillies, a career-high. Other than one time in the third inning, where the Phillies thought they scored a run, but didn’t (more on that later), they didn’t come close.

It didn’t look like it was going to get any better after Lodolo came out because Alexis Diaz came into the game in the eighth inning and whiffed Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto – which, the way they were swinging the bats, was not all that surprising in the moment, even if it was a bit head-scratching from afar:


But the ninth inning was a different story. In the ninth inning the Phillies made Diaz pitch and pitch and pitch some more.

It all started with Nick Castellanos doing what has been commonplace in his ABs to start the season – working the count and drawing a walk.

Castellanos walked twice Saturday and has now walked six times in eight games. That’s a pace for 122 walks this season. He walked 29 times last season. It’s unlikely he will keep up such a torrid pace all year, but it’s not out of the question that he could surpass last year’s total by June.

I already did a deep dive on Castellanos and his new approach. Once in Spring Training and again following the home opener, so I’m not going to dive back into again here, but it’s worth noting his walk because it lit the spark for the rally.

This walk came on another 3-2 count, forcing Diaz to throw more than he’s used to.

Alec Bohm followed with a base hit up the middle – also on a 3-2 pitch, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.

Manager Rob Thomson turned to Brandon Marsh to pinch hit for Josh Harrison, and this is when things started getting really fun.

The Reds decided to shift their defense (as much as they are allowed under the new rules) and that included playing Spencer Steer almost to shortstop and nowhere close to the third base bag. Castellanos, who was sheepish about playing head games with Hunter Greene when on third base in the opener, was as blatant as possible with his distraction efforts with Diaz.

“Their infield coordinator over there thought it was a good idea to shift, so I was going to get as much as I could get,” Castellanos said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that far (with a lead). At one point I was like, ‘I’m pretty close to home right now.’ I’m just doing anything I can to get the pitcher to focus on me and not the hitter. If they’re going to give me all that room, why not?

“I waved at him. It was just a friendly hello.”

Castellanos also said the thought of actually stealing home entered his mind, but he resisted because it wasn’t the tying or winning run.

“I would have,” he said. “But being that we would have still been down a run it doesn’t make any sense.”

But it unnerved Diaz who did disengage once and then worked into another full count against Marsh, setting up this:

Marsh’s hit cut it to 2-1, as the Phillies centerfielder continues to hit well against righties, and he upped his average to .316 this season.

That was it for Diaz who very likely:

  1. Wasn’t used to pitching more than one inning
  2. Had never experienced the pressure of pitching in an environment like a sold out Citizens Bank Park with an intensely engaged crowd.

Ian Gibaut replaced Diaz, and on the first pitch Edmundo Sosa lifted a sacrifice fly to center to tie the score.

This brought Stott to the plate.

Backing up for a moment, Stott was part of a bang-bang play in the bottom of the third inning. With runners on second and third and two out, Kyle Schwarber hit a slow chop grounder to third base. Stott immediately took off for home and Cristian Pache, the runner on second, broke for third.

Steer fielded the ball and only had one play – to try and tag out Pache, who was sliding head first into third. Steer lunged for Pache, but third base umpire Sean Barber called him safe. Stott scored and Schwarber was credited with an infield single and an RBI.

The Reds challenged the call and on replay, Steer barely caught Pache on the pant leg. So, he was out. But the delay was long, not only because it was so close of a call and you can barely see Steer’s tag of Pache, but also because, since it was a tag play and not a force out, they had to see if Stott scored before Pache was tug.

As it turns out, Stott did not score. He broke for home immediately and was running hard, but took a stutter step when he saw home plate umpire Alan Porter reaching for the bat to pull it out of his way. As a result, he didn’t score and the run, hit and RBI all came off the board.

For the longest time it looked like this one was going to burn the Phillies. But baseball is a beautiful game sometimes, so there was Stott with a chance at redemption.

He, too, worked a full count, but his thought process in the at bat changed completely when Marsh stole second base.

“I wanted to stay out of the double play originally and then Marsh took off and it changed the whole at bat from there,” Stott said. “I just wanted to get a pitch I could handle. I knew any hit to the outfield, he’s fast and he’s going to score. I’m just glad he stole second.”

Stott, who upped his early season batting average to .419 Saturday, came through with the dramatics for the win:

Just like Franzke said, this is what the Phillies felt they needed to get out of their early season funk. Get back home. Play in front of their fans. Make more magical memories.

They are now 3-5, and suddenly, a quick look ahead and things don’t look so bad after all.

Funny how quickly this game changes sometimes, isn’t it?

Other quick observations

  • Bailey Falter threw 50 pitches through two innings and it looked like he wasn’t going to make it very far in the game. But aside from giving up a solo homer to Steer in the first, he righted the ship and retired 12-consecutive batters before his day was done. Another five-inning, one-run outing is just fine. Rob Thomson said he was in trouble early because, weirdly enough, he was keeping his fastball too low and the Reds were making hard contact. “He has a good, elevated fastball but he was having a hard time keeping the ball above the barrel,” Thomson said. “Normally you don’t talk about pitching too low, but he was, but then he was getting it up (where it needed to go) and he ended up giving us five good innings.”
  • The bullpen was excellent again. Andrew Bellatti, who has now pitched in six of the eight games this season, Connor Brogdon, Seranthony Dominguez and Andrew Vazquez combined for four innings and allowed just one run – one that wouldn’t have scored if Bohm didn’t misread a sacrifice bunt attempt that allowed for the bunter (T.J. Friedl) to reach base safely. Bellatti and Brogdon seem to be guys the Phillies are really confident in using early and often in games.
  • Pache laid down a sacrifice bunt in his first at bat and later got one of the three hits off Lodolo, a double to left field. It was his first hit as a Phillie. He’s still gota long way to go and may never get there, but that was at least one encouraging at bat.
  • Josh Harrison continues to offer the Phillies very little at the plate in his regular season at bats to this point. He’s not making solid contact. It’s early and he’s a veteran, but he has to come around, because there’s a younger and even more versatile player pushing for an opportunity at AAA Lehigh Valley (Scott Kingery).