Wilson Ramos, all 250 pounds of him, rounded second base like a runaway buffalo and headed for third. He slid in safely with just the second triple of his career – and first since 2011 – pumped his fist emphatically and gave the Phillies’ dugout one of those looks that said, “Let’s bleeping go!”
The moment verified two things:
One, Ramos’ hamstring is healthy.
And two, the big catcher, who goes by the nickname “The Buffalo,” is all-in with his new team and its quest to end a six-year postseason drought.
Ramos’ triple came with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Phillies locked in a tie ballgame with the Boston Red Sox. Moments later, he trotted home with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Scott Kingery and the Phillies were on their way to a 7-4 win over baseball’s best team (see first take).
Ramos, 31, had been acquired by the Phils from Tampa Bay before last month’s trade deadline. The Phils picked him up even though he was on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. He was deemed healthy and activated from the disabled list earlier Wednesday and had a debut that included two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. Two of the RBIs came on a seventh-inning double that helped seal the game. It was the first time he’d had three extra-base hits in a big-league career that started in 2010.
The Phils added Ramos because they needed an offensive boost and he delivered it.
“Today is a special day, especially for me, my Phillies debut,” Ramos said. “I remember feeling the same in my MLB debut. I went 4 for 5 in my MLB debut. This one, pretty similar. It made me feel excited. I wanted to show everybody here what I can do and that’s what I can do.”
A night after giving up a tie-breaking homer in a 2-1 loss to Boston, Tommy Hunter, one of seven relievers employed by manager Gabe Kapler, got the win.
Hunter shared it with his former Tampa Bay teammate, Ramos.
“The dude is a stud,” Hunter said. “I played with him last year. You can’t expect anything less from a buffalo. He’s a welcomed addition. And we can’t welcome him with more open arms than what we have tonight.”
The victory was one of the Phillies’ best of the season because they came from three runs down against a powerhouse team, and it was one of their most important because it came at a time when the doubters were beginning to stir after the club had gone 2-5 in its previous seven games to fall out of first place in the NL East and slip two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the standings.
“We have had a lot of special wins,” Kapler said. “That one was a lot of fun, I can tell you that. Any time the action starts early and you’re starting to make decisions early in the game and you’re thinking about tomorrow’s game and the doubleheader and all of that all at once, it’s really stimulating and invigorating and I think that’s how we all felt in the dugout tonight – invigorated.
“Through good and bad, our job is to keep laser-sharp focus on the step right in front of us. We’re not thinking about 15 games down the road. We’ve shown that we can turn the page, we can take a punch and come out fighting the next day. So we’re certainly not thinking about last night or what’s going on around us. Our focus is squarely on this game and we showed that tonight and now our focus is on tomorrow.”
With the win, the Phillies, who still trail Atlanta by two games, improved to 66-53. They have equaled last season’s win total – with 43 games remaining.
Two of the Phillies’ wins have come in four games against Boston in the last two weeks. Both times, the Phillies lost the previous night’s game by a score of 2-1.
“They have tremendous athletes and pop up and down the lineup, but we feel we can go toe to toe with them and we feel like we’ll continue to go toe to toe with the best in baseball,” Kapler said.
There were other standouts besides Ramos. Newcomer Justin Bour got the start at first base, had a pair of hits, scored an important run in the seventh inning and made a crucial defensive play to keep the game tied in the top of the sixth.
The bullpen was also a standout. Hector Neris left the bases loaded in the third after the Sox scored three times against ineffective starter Vince Velasquez. Neris had spent the previous five weeks in Triple A, working on his splitter and regaining his confidence.
“Hector Neris saved this game for us,” Kapler said. “He came into a spot where the game was about to be out of hand. He got a pop out and a punch-out. He threw some nasty splits. This is a guy who went down to Triple A for us. He had a pride-swallowing moment. He worked his tail off to get his stuff back. He came up and just executed beautifully for us tonight. We definitely don't win that game without the contributions of Hector Neris.”
In all, the bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
Against the majors’ best offense.
Impressive win. Important win.