Hours before he became one of the heroes in the Phillies' 10-inning win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon, Aaron Altherr sat in front of his locker and insisted that his left wrist was fine.
Yes, he jammed the wrist — the same one that he had surgery on last year — making a play Friday night but was being held out of the starting lineup for the second day in a row just as a precaution.
"I'm available if they need me," Altherr said.
Manager Pete Mackanin needed Altherr to pinch-hit with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning and Altherr delivered in a big way. He scorched a three-run homer into the seats in left-center to tie the game and the Phils rallied for a run in the bottom of the 10th to win, 6-5 (see Instant Replay).
Freddy Galvis capped a three-RBI game with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field in the 10th to complete the comeback and give the Phils the walk-off win.
Just three days earlier, Galvis also had a hand in a walk-off outcome. His throwing error in the bottom of the 13th inning Thursday at Wrigley Field was the fatal blow in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
"Big turnaround," Galvis said of the difference in emotion. "This is baseball, you know? This is baseball. Sometimes it goes wrong and sometimes it goes good. I think I'm just here to play hard and help the team win some games."
Galvis did that Sunday. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Phils and was just their second in the last 10 games, a string of contests that has seen them play the Dodgers, Cubs and Nats, three teams that made the postseason last year and one that won it all. In that 10-game stretch, the Phillies held a lead nine times. A little more offense, a better job protecting late leads, and the Phils would have had more wins than just two in that stretch.
The Phils blew another lead Sunday when Jayson Werth, the former Phillie turned Phillie killer, stroked a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. It was Werth's second homer of the game, both off starter Jeremy Hellickson, who has given up nine earned runs in 8 2/3 innings over his last two starts after going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April.
The Nats built their lead to 5-2 with two runs against Jake Thompson in the seventh, and the Phillies, with just two hits against Washington's Tanner Roark through six, appeared to be on their way to a sixth straight loss after they got the first two men on in the seventh against reliever Matt Grace but came away empty on a line-drive double play.
Throughout the middle innings, as the Phillies were trailing, Altherr was camped out in the batting cage behind the dugout taking swings against the serves of Rob Potts, the Phillies' strike-machine batting practice pitcher.
Altherr had said he was available for action and hoped an opportunity would arise.
"I started going to the cage about the fifth inning," Altherr said. "I probably had about 100, 150 swings, just soft tosses, staying loose and staying ready."
In the eighth inning, with two men on and two outs, Altherr got his chance. He blasted a hanging slider, the first pitch that reliever Matt Albers threw, through the wind to tie the game. The ball came off Altherr's bat at 100 mph.
"With the wind the way it was, I wasn't really sure if it was going to go or not," Altherr said. "Thankfully it did and it tied the game."
Altherr opened the season as the Phillies' fourth outfielder. An injury to Howie Kendrick has gained him more playing time and his production will keep earning him playing time even when Kendrick returns. Altherr has 22 hits and half of them are for extra bases — seven doubles and four homers.
Pat Neshek and Hector Neris combined on 3 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the tie and Galvis won it with a fly ball in the 10th.
"That was a huge win to avoid a sweep," Altherr said.
"It was a nice way to end a series," Mackanin added.