Joe Girardi died 1,000 deaths on his way to his 1,000th career managerial victory Wednesday night.
"One thing I've realized in managing a while is it's never easy," the 55-year-old Phillies skipper said after his team eked out a 3-2 road win over the Washington Nationals.
This one surely wasn't easy.
Newly acquired closer Brandon Workman walked a high wire over a pit of hungry alligators in the ninth inning and that caused a lot of anxiety in the Phillies' dugout. Workman fell behind in counts, allowed a leadoff double and a one-out single before finally getting the last two outs, both strikeouts, with runners on the corners. He threw 23 pitches in the nervous ninth and got a huge assist from catcher J.T. Realmuto, who prevented the tying run from scoring with a stonewall block of a breaking ball in the dirt.
When it was over, everyone exhaled, checked their vital signs and saluted Girardi on the milestone victory. Realmuto gave him the ball from the final out.
"Hopefully we can get him 1,001 tomorrow," Bryce Harper said.
That certainly would be a nice way to wrap up a 10-game road trip. The Phils have won three straight to pull to within two games of .500. A win Thursday would give them a sweep of the defending World Series champs, but it won't be easy with rookie Spencer Howard lined up against three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
Wednesday night's win was the Phillies' first of the season when scoring fewer than five runs. They had previously been 0-10 in those games.
Aaron Nola pitched a gem and got the win after the Phillies rallied for two runs to take the lead in the seventh and Tommy Hunter (excellent) and Workman (shaky) made it stand up.
Rookie Alec Bohm and Harper had the hits to tie the game and put the Phils up.
Harper is hitting .371 with 20 RBIs and a 1.091 OPS.
After the game, Harper was center stage in the clubhouse.
The team presented Girardi with a bottle of champagne, specially labeled with the milestone, and Harper made a speech.
"I knew J.T. wasn't going to do it," said Harper, referring to his more reserved teammate.
"They asked me and I was totally fine with it. Any time you're able to be part of something that great and exciting — I was going to say anything no matter what.
"Everybody knows the type of person Joe is. He's a great manager, person, family man. One-thousand wins is an incredible milestone.
"He turned it around and said he wouldn't be here without the players."
Girardi, who got his first win when the then Florida Marlins beat the Houston Astros, 11-2, on April 4, 2006, was touched by Harper's speech.
"It brought a tear to my eye because I just feel that I've really been blessed," Girardi said.
While speaking with reporters after the game, Girardi spoke of some of his mentors — Joe Torre, Don Zimmer, Don Baylor, Tony La Russa, all of whom he spent time with in pro ball. He mentioned Ron Wellman, his college coach at Northwestern, his high school coach, Dave Lang, and the man who made him a catcher, youth league coach Dave Rogers.
"I've had a lot of great mentors along the way," Girardi said. "They taught me so many things that I've never forgotten."
Girardi also spoke of his players. All of them, past and present.
"I love the competition, the relationships with the players and trying to match strategy," he said of the things he likes most about managing. "But my favorite thing is to watch players have success."
His Phillies have had enough success to win three straight games.
Can they make it four on Thursday?