MILWAUKEE -- The sample size isn't very big — just 13 games — but Nick Williams is quickly making an impression.
The 23-year-old outfielder had two hits Sunday afternoon, including his first career grand slam which proved to be the deciding factor in the Phillies' 5-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park (see Instant Replay).
That boosted his average to .279, nearly matching the .280 mark he posted in 78 games earlier this season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he hit 15 home runs with 44 RBIs.
"He's been playing very aggressively," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He has some things he has to change with his swing, some holes like everybody else, but I like the way that he's playing. I'm happy with him so far."
That aggressiveness paid off in a big way Sunday.
The Phillies watched a 1-0 lead disappear an inning earlier when Brewers rookie Brett Phillips tagged Jeremy Hellickson for a two-run home run — the first of his career.
The Phillies opened the sixth with three straight singles off Rob Scahill, and with the left-handed-hitting Williams due up, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell called on lefty Tyler Webb, who had yet to throw a pitch since being acquired in an All-Star break trade with the Yankees and only had six big league appearances under his belt before that.
But Williams was familiar with Webb from their time in Triple A and had an idea of what to expect.
“I watched a couple of clips of him pitching and said, ‘Wait I think I faced this guy. A couple of weeks ago actually,'" Williams said. "In that situation, bases loaded I was thinking even if you hit the ball on the ground, get something going because we were down one run.”
Webb's first offering was a slider, right down the middle and Williams got all of it, putting the Phillies ahead.
“I don’t think I had a lot of success against him last year, but I remember I faced him this year," Williams said. "He threw me a first-pitch slider and I hit a homer. I remembered that. First pitch again, slider and another homer.
Williams' grand slam wasn't a cheap shot in a hitter-friendly yard, either, but rather a no-doubt-about-it blast that traveled an estimated 411 feet to left-center, one of the deepest parts of Miller Park.
The distance was impressive but not nearly as much as the approach.
“It was a mistake and he jumped all over it first pitch instead of taking it," Mackanin said. "Bases loaded, you’ve got to be ready for a mistake first pitch and he was.”
Acquired from Texas in a 2015 deadline deal that shipped Cole Hamels to the Rangers — the same deal that brought back Monday's starter Jerad Eickhoff — Williams struggled at times in the minor leagues and was even benched twice last season for failing to run hard.
There's been no issue with his hustle this season, Mackanin said.
"Players have to self-motivate," Mackanin said. "That's the kind of guys we're looking for that you don't have to motivate. They motivate themselves. Hopefully, he's one of those guys.
"The test will be three, four years down the road, if and when he has some success that he continues to play like that and not fall into that trap."
And with the Phillies in rebuilding mode, Williams is starting to look like one of the players who could make up the nucleus of the next generation of winners.
Jeremy Hellickson tossed five innings of two-run ball but left early with an apparent calf injury. The righty said he is fine and expects to make his next start.
"He looks good," Hellickson said of Williams. "The stage doesn't look too big for him."