A little more than six months ago, Cristan Pache didn’t know what his future held.

Once a highly touted prospect in the Atlanta organization, he was shipped to Oakland as part of the Matt Olson trade after Michael Harris usurped him as the starting centerfielder in Atlanta.

Both were top flight defenders, but the difference was Harris could hit at the major league level and Pache couldn’t.

Being sent to Oakland was practically like being sent to Siberia.

He struggled even more with the A’s in 2022, and when they designated him for assignment at the end of the 2023 Spring Training, he had no idea where he would end up.

“That’s baseball,” Pache said through an interpreter. “But sometimes things happen for a reason.”

What happened to Pache is he was traded to the Phillies for minor league reliever Billy Sullivan.

The Phillies were looking to upgrade their fifth outfielder from Dalton Guthrie, and wanted a guy who could give Kyle Schwarber games off from the field from time to time against lefties.

But when Pache first got to Philadelphia, the same problems with breaking pitches foiled him. He looked lost. The Phillies looked desperate for taking a chance on the unfulfilled promise of a prospect who had failed in two other major league cities, and with Jake Cave also not hitting, the Phillies bench, along with an aging Josh Harrison, was looking slim.

Then something happened for Pache that had never happened before. The Phillies allowed him to bring Spanish language interpreter Diego Ettedgui with him into the batting cage with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Now, instead of just speaking the language of baseball, and hoping to fix what was wrong, Pache could have the instruction provided to him in his native tongue.

It worked.

Suddenly, Pache became a regular in the outfield against left-handed pitching, and he was raking, too. But then a knee injury sidelined him for a month. He came back, started to pick up where he left off, and then was suddenly out of action for another six weeks because of a surgical screw in his elbow had come loose and created an infection.

Once Pache returned in September, he couldn’t quite get back to the same level where he was earlier in the season, and despite being given multiple chances, he struggled mightily. It got to the point where there was some doubt that he would even get a chance to be on the playoff roster.

But the Phillies kept him there, thinking he could provide defense and speed, in the form of pinch running.

Then another crazy thing happened. The Miami Marlins catapulted up the Wild Card standings past three teams to become the Phillies Wild Card opponent.

Thing about the Marlins is, they have seven left-handed pitchers on their roster.

Carrying Pache made some sense, especially since Brandon Marsh, who has shifted to left field with the emergence of Johan Rojas in center, had struck out 43 times in 96 at bats against lefties in 2023.

Pache had also hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead two-run home run off the Marlins earlier in the season in Miami – off lefty A.J. Puk – with two out in the ninth inning:

The Phillies took their bet one step further when it was announced that Miami would start lefty Jesus Luzardo in the first game of the series – they started Pache over Marsh in left field.

“It was very exciting to hear that news,” Pache said.

It seemed risky to many fans, especially with how popular Marsh is on this team.

The Phillies’ plan was, and is, a simple one, Pache would start, provide good defense and get a couple at bats against the starter, and then Marsh would replace him as soon as a righty arrived on the mound out of the bullpen.

That’s what happened. Pache played the first half of the game, and Marsh the second. And would you know, Pache made the best of it, helping the Phillies defeat the Marlins 4-1 and take a 1-0 series lead.

On the first at bat of the game, Pache made a nice running grab on a line drive by Luis Arraez. The ball left the bat at 103 MPH. According to MLB Statcast, the expected batting average on that ball was .740. But Pache made it look easy.

“That’s part of the study that you do on the hitters,” Pache said. “I got together with (outfield coach) Paco (Figueroa) and see where they each hit the ball the most and make adjustments on the go. That’s why I was able to make that grab.”

In his first at bat against Luzardo though, Pache swung and missed at three sliders. It wasn’t a good at bat. It was more reminiscent of the swings Pache was taking when he first arrived in Philadelphia.

But in the fourth inning, with the Phillies up 2-1 and Bryson Stott on second, Pache faced Luzardo again. This time, he laid off the sliders. One of them, skipped in the dirt for a wild pitch, allowing Stott to advance to third. Then, Pache found his pitch, a fast ball, and laced it back up the middle for an RBI single.

“I was really happy for Pache,” manager Rob Thomson said. “I was really happy with that at bat. It will build some confidence going into (Game 2).”

Pache wouldn’t get another at bat, but his hit helped chase Luzardo from the game after just four innings and gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

It’s an opportunity he’s relishing, after not knowing what his baseball future would hold just six months earlier.

“I feel like I’m taking advantage of the opportunity now,” Pache said. “You always have to keep your head high.”

He should expect the same setup in Game 2, as the Marlins are trotting out another lefty – Braxton Garrett – to start that game.

He’ll likely only play half a game again, but like everyone else in the Phillies clubhouse, he knows his role, and he’s happy to play it to get this team where it wants to go.

Because of contributions like those from Pache in Game 1, they only have to do this 12 more times to get there.