Aaron Nola and the Phillies dug a giant hole, but a week after coming back from a seven-run deficit to down the Cubs, they came back from a six-run deficit to beat the Pirates, 12-6, on a rainy Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.
It was a stirring and important win, the Phils' fourth of the season when trailing by at least six runs. The Braves lost earlier in the day in Arizona so the Phillies (79-74) made up a game and moved to two back with nine to play.
Ronald Torreyes had the go-ahead drive, a pinch-hit three-run home run in the sixth inning. It was the first pinch-hit homer of his career. He was batting for Nola, who allowed five runs in the second inning and one in the third before retiring the final 12 hitters he faced in rapid fashion.
“Toe has come up with a lot of big hits for us all year long and that’s probably the biggest one so far,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Down 6-0 in the bottom of the third, Didi Gregorius demolished a 438-foot solo home run to begin a five-run rally. Odubel Herrera and Andrew McCutchen doubled in the inning and Brad Miller singled in a run.
"They backed me up big-time," Nola said. "It was awesome. ... Anything can happen. It was like that in the dugout all game. They were confident they were going to score runs."
It was a big night for Gregorius and Herrera, two left-handed bats the Phillies need over the next 10 days if they’re going to make the playoffs. Those two went a combined 5 for 40 in the series against the Mets and Orioles but Herrera responded with three hits and Gregorius with his longest home run in at least seven seasons.
McCutchen also atoned at the plate for his miscue in the field. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning of a scoreless game, Pirates pitcher Connor Overton blooped a ball to shallow left field. McCutchen appeared to misread it or was just slow getting to it. The ground was wet and he has a surgically repaired knee, which likely played into it. Third baseman Freddy Galvis also made an effort but the play was the left fielder’s. It fell in, the Pirates took a two-run lead and the next batter, Ke’Bryan Hayes, hit a three-run homer. Better defense and none of the five runs score.
Nola allowed a leadoff homer the next inning then set down the final 12 Pirates he faced.
“I thought that was crucial that (Nola) got us through six,” Girardi said. “I think it was huge because our bullpen, there’s guys we’re having to give nights off every night just because of the usage. He went out and did his job.”
The Phillies were able to rest closer Ian Kennedy, who pitched three innings the prior two nights, and Hector Neris, who has been a workhorse setup man in August and September.
J.T. Realmuto did not start but entered in the sixth inning for Miller at first base and went 3 for 3 with a two-run homer and four RBI. He is the first major-leaguer since Jose Bautista in 2018 with at least three hits and four RBI off the bench and the first Phillie since Chase Utley in 2004.
“We got seven RBIs off the bench tonight. I could live with that every day,” Girardi said. “Three hits, four RBIs for J.T. on a day I was trying to rest him a little bit. I did, I rested him for five innings, there’s his rest.”
The Braves have four games with the Padres over the next three days. The Phillies have three more with the 57-95 Pirates this weekend and can ill afford to lose any ground before their make-or-break series begins in Atlanta on Tuesday.