Nick Williams' pinch-hit homer saves the day for Aaron Nola, Phillies

Nick Williams' pinch-hit homer saves the day for Aaron Nola, Phillies


Nick Williams came off the bench and clubbed a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to help Aaron Nola and the Phillies beat the New York Mets, 4-2, at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.

The win gave the Phillies a 5-1 homestand as they get set to hit the road for six games after Monday’s off day.

Nola, who entered the game with the fourth-best ERA in the National League, pitched six innings of one-run ball to improve to 6-1 and lower his ERA to 1.99.

The only run he allowed came in the top of the sixth when Yoenis Cespedes hit a mistake, 0-2 curveball for a solo homer. That was the game’s only run until Williams’ two-out homer in the bottom of the inning against Mets right-hander Paul Sewald.

The Phillies had trouble manufacturing a run in the early and middle innings. They loaded the bases on three walks against Mets starter Jacob deGrom in the first inning and got nothing. They grounded into two inning-ending double plays in the first four innings and were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position before Williams’ big hit.

Carlos Santana had a big day for the Phils. He led off the sixth inning with a double and Scott Kingery drew a one-out walk before Williams’ homer gave the Phils a 3-1 lead.

Things got tight for the Phillies in the seventh inning when Tommy Hunter allowed a two-out single and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI double off the right-field wall to make it a one-run game. Cabrera's drive came just a few feet from going over the wall for a game-tying homer.

Santana provided the Phils a little breathing room with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. He had four home runs and 14 RBIs on the homestand.

Rookie Seranthony Dominguez pitched a scoreless eighth, giving him four scoreless appearances since arriving from Triple A. Edubray Ramos protected the two-run lead in the ninth and got the save. Hector Neris, who blew the save on Friday night, warmed up after Ramos entered the game, but was not used.

Odubel Herrera, the majors’ leading hitter, improved his consecutive games on-base streak to 41 with a first-inning walk. He is hitting .360.

DeGrom was removed after just one inning and an arduous 45 pitches. He was not hurt, but the Mets are watching him closely as he comes back from a hyperextended elbow.

• The Phillies’ defense was sharp. First baseman Santana started an important 3-6-1 double play to end the top of the fifth and catcher Jorge Alfaro gunned down Amed Rosario trying to steal. Alfaro’s throw to second registered at 91 mph. Alfaro also had a pair of hits.

• The Phillies are off on Monday. They open a two-game interleague series at Baltimore on Tuesday night.

• The Phillies sent reliever Jake Thompson to Triple A after the game. They will add someone before Tuesday's game. 

Gabe Kapler still leaning toward Cesar Hernandez as his leadoff man

Gabe Kapler still leaning toward Cesar Hernandez as his leadoff man

CLEARWATER, Fla. — When we last saw Cesar Hernandez, he was heading out the door of Citizens Bank Park after the 2018 season and looking at an uncertain winter.

The second baseman survived another offseason of trade speculation and is back with the Phillies — probably in a familiar spot in the batting order.

The Phils have upgraded their lineup with several new additions — Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto — but Hernandez appears to still be the favorite to hit in the leadoff spot.

“With Cesar and his performance in the first half last year, he is an ideal leadoff hitter,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He sees a lot of pitches, he fouls balls off, has a great eye at the plate, spits on balls in the dirt, can drive the ball out of the ballpark. Those are all things that we value in the top spot of the lineup.

“On the flipside, McCutchen has all the same characteristics. Both of those guys could be options for the leadoff spot. I think we’re going to give Cesar a long look and from my perspective, he has all the characteristics and all of the talent to take down that leadoff spot.”

Hernandez’ batting average dropped from .294 to .253 and his OPS from .793 to .718 last season. He struck out a career-high 155 times. Much of Hernandez’ decline came after he cracked a bone in his foot in early July and played through it.

Despite his struggles, Hernandez walked a career-high 95 times and maintained a solid .356 on-base percentage.

If Hernandez bats leadoff, McCutchen could hit somewhere in the middle of the order. He is a consistent 30-double, 20-homer guy.

Kapler places a lot of value in the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Newcomer Segura, who has carried a .308 batting average the last three seasons, would seem to be a good fit there.

“I think Segura could be a two-hole guy,” Kapler said. “But I also think he can hit three, too. And I think he can hit five or six. A lot of that is going to be dependent on how he's performing, how others are performing, and who the guy on the mound is.”

Kapler will communicate with players, especially the new guys, to find out if there are spots in the lineup where they feel most comfortable, but, ultimately, he is the one who will sign the lineup card.

“The thing that excites me most is, all of these guys — McCutchen, Segura, Hernandez, Rhys (Hoskins), Realmuto — all of those guys can hit one through five, one through six,” Kapler said. “And Odubel Herrera, when Odubel is on, he hits anywhere in the lineup, too, and you can't take him out of the lineup.”

This is the way things shape up in Kapler’s mind on Feb. 15. There is still a long way to go before opening day March 28. And it’s all subject to change if the Phillies are able to put Manny Machado or Bryce Harper in red pinstripes. Nothing has changed on that front. The Phils would still like to land one of them and they are awaiting an answer.

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Contact machine Jean Segura is ready to rumble in Philly

USA Today Images

Contact machine Jean Segura is ready to rumble in Philly

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Reporters didn’t need to track down a phone number for Jean Segura to get his reaction to the trade that sent him from the Seattle Mariners to the Phillies in early December.

All they had to do was look at Segura’s social media accounts.

Moments after the deal went down, a video of Segura appeared on the Internet. He was smiling and dancing.

Segura arrived in Phillies camp on Saturday morning. He was still smiling.

“I was more happy because I’m getting an opportunity to win,” he said of his initial reaction to the deal. “Seattle is over. Now I’m in Philly. I know for sure people are going to ask me what happened in Seattle. They had their problems. Every team has their problems. Now I’m with the Phillies and I’m looking forward.”

Segura spent the last two seasons as the Mariners' starting shortstop. He played well and even signed a five-year contract extension with the club in June 2017.

The Mariners were playing well at 24 games over .500 early last July but collapsed down the stretch and didn’t make the playoffs. Team chemistry suffered. The low point came in early September when Segura and teammate Dee Gordon were involved in a pre-game fistfight. After the season, the Mariners shipped a bunch of their high-priced talent out of town. The Phillies are Segura’s fourth team in five years.

“I don’t like to fight,” Segura said. “There were a lot of people coming and saying I was the one fighting, but they don’t know what was going on. It’s over. I’m here now with new guys. I don’t want people to recognize that I’m a trouble guy in the clubhouse or a trouble guy on the team.

"I never intend to fight nobody in baseball. If a fight comes to you, you know, as a grown man, you’re not going to let it by. It’s simple. I don’t like to fight. I just want to be the best person I can be. I just want to continue moving forward as a person as a good teammate. I like to help guys, too. Help my teammates, especially now that I have a little bit of time in the big leagues.”

Segura said everything is good between him and Gordon now.

“We cool,” he said. “Brothers always fight. Sometimes you need to fight with your brother to be cool. I’m cool, man. I don’t like to fight. I’m cool. I’m a great guy. Maybe social media says different or you guys maybe. But if you get comfortable and talk to me about it you’ll see a different type of guy.”

Segura turns 29 in March. He is signed through 2022 and should be able to solidify shortstop for the Phillies until top prospect Luis Garcia is ready. Garcia, 18, led the Gulf Coast League in hitting (.369) and was third in on-base percentage (.433) last season. Those who've seen him play say he has the goods.

The Phillies needed to improve their offense after finishing last in the NL in hits (1,270) and batting average (.234) in 2018. In particular, they needed more production out of the shortstop position. Last season, their shortstops hit .235 with a .651 OPS. Those marks ranked 27th and 28th, respectively, in the majors.

Segura will provide a big lift. He is a contact machine who led the majors with 203 hits in 2016. Over the last three seasons, he has hit .308 (eighth-best in the majors) with a .803 OPS. His 538 hits are the seventh most in the majors over the last three seasons. His 75 stolen bases rank 11th over that span.

“I like to put the ball in play a lot because when you put the ball in play there’s a lot of opportunity to create runs, to get a base hit and be part of the game,” Segura said. “That’s one of my biggest things: put the ball in play and make a lot of contact. With my speed, a lot of things can happen.”

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