Scott Kingery needed this. The Phillies needed this. You needed this. Yeah, you, watching at home on TV. It was getting late and you didn’t want to go to bed in a bad mood, right?
Kingery made sure you didn’t.
It’s been a tough season so far Kingery. He was knocked off his feet by a bout with COVID-19 in June and his struggles at the plate and in the field during the first month of the season cost him regular playing time.
That’s what made Friday night’s 7-4 win over the Atlanta Braves so triumphant for Kingery.
He came off the bench and made a huge defensive play to save a run in the top of the 11th then clouted a game-winning three-run homer against Braves reliever Mark Melancon with two outs in the bottom of the inning.
Kingery took two cutters from Melancon in falling behind 0-2 then got another cutter and drove it on a line over the left-field wall for the first walk-off homer of his career.
The Phillies have won four games in a row.
“It feels really good,” Kingery said afterward. “I think it would feel good regardless. It’s a big win for us, especially at the beginning of the series. Hopefully we can build some momentum off it.”
Kingery entered the night hitting .121 (8 for 66) with just one extra-base hit (a double) and one RBI.
“I think anytime you start to square the ball up it just kind of keeps going and gets your confidence back up,” Kingery said. “And regardless of what they’re throwing at you, you’ve got a chance to square it up. Just getting back into the rhythm of actually feeling what it’s like to square the ball up is helpful.”
Kingery’s homer touched off one of the most unusual home-plate, walk-off celebrations ever at Citizens Bank Park. Because of social distancing, he did not receive a beat down from his teammates. But he did get to see Andrew McCutchen do some break dancing.
“You know, I’m sure it would have been a lot of fun with fans and if we were able to actually get mobbed, but it was still pretty awesome and still pretty special,” Kingery said.
Kingery has spent a lot of time recently working with hitting coach Joe Dillon on shortening and flattening his swing.
The swing he put on Melancon’s 0-2 cutter was just what the Phillies were looking for.
“That’s the great thing about this game,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Every day you have the ability to rewrite the script.”
Moments before the home run, Kingery made a nice tag play on a one-hopper from J.T. Realmuto to nail Ender Inciarte as he tried to steal second. There was a man on third at the time. Kingery’s play prevented Realmuto’s throw from skipping into center field and bringing home a run.
There were other heroes besides Kingery.
Zack Wheeler turned in another strong start against the Braves only to have the bullpen lose his two-run lead for the second time in six days when Adam Morgan gave up back-to-back homers in the seventh.
Other than Morgan, the bullpen was outstanding with Tommy Hunter, Hector Neris, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and Blake Parker combining for 15 outs to keep the Braves at bay.
“They were outstanding,” Girardi said. “And that’s a tough lineup to navigate.”
The Phillies are now 13-14, three games behind the first-place Braves heading into the second game of the three-game series Saturday afternoon. Their four straight wins have all come after the bullpen blew a would-be win for Wheeler last Saturday night in Atlanta. After that game, Bryce Harper pointed to the shrinking calendar and said the Phillies needed to quickly right themselves and win nine of the next 10 games.
On Saturday afternoon, they go for five straight wins.