Brad Miller floated around the bases for the third time Thursday night at Wrigley Field, long after he justified Joe Girardi’s decision to start him over a hot Rhys Hoskins.
“I felt like I was dreaming,” said Miller, who hit three home runs to power the Phillies to an 8-0 win over the Cubs in the series finale.
Hoskins drove in seven runs in the Phillies’ first two wins in Chicago this week on two homers and two doubles.
Andrew McCutchen also drove in seven runs in the series with two homers and two doubles. He’s been hot much longer than that, ranking fourth in the NL in OPS since June 1 behind only Kyle Schwarber, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.
Girardi raised eyebrows by sitting both players in Thursday’s series finale, but the moves paid off huge.
The Phils faced Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay, who entered with a .932 opponents’ OPS to lefties and a .529 mark vs. righties. Those are as pronounced as you’ll see splits from a starting pitcher and Girardi made the decision to sit Hoskins and McCutchen in favor of left-handed-hitting Miller and Travis Jankowski.
Miller homered twice off of Alzolay. The first was a line-drive tracer into the left-field seats in the third inning. With the wind blowing in 10-to-12 mph from left field when the game began, a low liner like Miller's was the only sort of ball that could've realistically left that part of the park.
Miller's second was a majestic two-run shot to right in the fifth. It was preceded by Jankowski's bunt single.
In the seventh, Miller hit another two-run homer down the right-field line off of reliever Cory Abbott. His parents were in the stands and he could see them celebrating after the third bomb.
The home runs were the first in over a month for Miller, who has started just four of the Phillies' last 18 games.
"He had a really tough June but in July, he’s hit the ball extremely hard," Girardi said. "The walk-off he had against the Padres, he also hit one ball to Tatis that knocked him over. We just liked the matchup. He came up really big for us tonight."
Miller needed a night like this.
"As hard and frustrating as it is to have a couple of weeks there where I felt like I didn't contribute at all ... turn the page, focus on the future because focusing on that was eating me up inside. It feels really nice to show our work is paying off."
A valuable extra man here on a one-year, $3.5 million contract, Miller is hitting .260 with an .827 OPS in 170 plate appearances. He has nine home runs and 25 RBI this season and has homered 21 times in exactly 300 plate appearances as a Phillie over two stints.
"It’s huge value," Girardi said. "He’s somewhat versatile. In some of the American League parks, you can DH him. He’s a really good pinch-hitter off the bench. Those aren’t easy situations because a lot of times, you’re facing really tough pitchers. He’s really important to us."
Zach Eflin started for the Phillies and pitched six scoreless innings. The Phils took three of four games in Chicago and emerged 42-43 as they head to Boston for their final series before the All-Star break.
"It’s the best series that we’ve had, definitely," Girardi said. "We pitched well, we really hit in three of the four games. Probably the best series we’ve had on the road to this point.
"I feel (some momentum). You feel it in the dugout, you feel confident with the lineup we’re throwing out there every day. There’s a little something going."
At Wrigley, they scored 39 runs, homered 13 times and had 23 extra-base hits. Can they carry the momentum into Fenway? The test will be much stiffer. The Red Sox are 20 games over .500 and have won eight in a row at home.
"Two series wins against teams that are in this race," Miller said of the last two over the Cubs and Padres. "I think it was big on the road. For whatever reason, we have not won enough games on the road. To take three out of four in pretty good fashion with the offense clicking, it's definitely something we need to build off of."