Phillies look to build on walk-off momentum vs. Braves

MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies have a chance for a series win against the Atlanta Braves thanks to an unlikely hero.

Instead of facing a possible series sweep, the Phillies rallied for a 2-1 win Wednesday when Luke Williams hit his first career home run, a two-run walk-off shot with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

It was just the second career major league game for Williams.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity,” Williams said on a postgame interview on NBC Sports Philadelphia. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

The Phillies will now look to capture the three-game set when they host the Braves on Thursday afternoon. Atlanta took the opener 9-5 on Tuesday.

Philadelphia will send Zack Wheeler to the mound for his 13th start of the season Thursday, and he is enjoying a strong campaign.

Wheeler (4-3, 2.51 ERA) has recorded 100 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings in 2021. In his past six starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA.

“I feel really dialed in right now,” Wheeler said. “When you are able to command most of your pitches, it definitely makes it easier to get ahead in the count, and I think the numbers speak for themselves in that regard. When you get ahead in the count leaguewide, you can put guys away a little quicker and the (opponents’) batting average drops.”

In his career against the Braves, Wheeler is 7-6 with a 3.63 ERA in 18 starts. Over his past four starts vs. Atlanta, he is 1-1 with a 2.22 ERA.

Odubel Herrera figures to be back in center field behind Wheeler on Thursday after a rare night out of the starting lineup. With his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all higher than they have been since 2017, and with him performing well in the field, he has earned the right to play every day.

“It’s great to put that conversation and debate to rest,” Herrera said. “I just want to show that I’m here and I can still play. I still have a long way to go as a center fielder in MLB. I know I have the ability and the talent, and I’ve worked hard every day to show that I’m the right guy.”

The Braves hope Ian Anderson (4-3, 3.64 ERA) can be the guy to put them back on track after the walk-off defeat ended their three-game winning streak. However, Anderson has allowed eight runs in a combined 8 1/3 innings while losing each of his past two starts.

In three career starts against the Phillies, Anderson is 0-0 with a 4.41 ERA.

Atlanta rookie catcher William Contreras homered Tuesday and added three hits and an RBI on Wednesday.

“He’s a superstar in the making,” teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. said of Contreras. “I think he has that potential.”

Acuna went 0-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday, a rare night when he wasn’t able to produce on offense. The 23-year-old right fielder has 18 home runs this season, tying him with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead.

“His ability to pull his hands inside and to do that with the elite power is pretty special,” teammate Austin Riley said. “He’s just Ronald.”

After barely missing a trip to the World Series last season, the Braves have struggled to find their rhythm in 2021, but they are slowly rounding into form.

“We’re a good team. I think the guys believe that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Sometimes in this sport, things don’t go as you planned or as you wanted it to. That’s why we keep showing up every day, working and grinding through things to get where we want to go.”

–Field Level Media

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