When the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed Didi Gregorius, they had high expectations.
They never fathomed that the ultra-talented shortstop would struggle so mightily at the plate.
But Gregorius came up with arguably his biggest hit all season, a go-ahead three-run home run, to carry the Phillies past the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-6 on Friday.
The Phillies (80-74), who are one and a half games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East, will now look for their fifth win in a row when they host the Pirates on Saturday.
“I’ve been in the cage doing extra work,” Gregorius said on a postgame interview on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
With eight games left, the Phillies are suddenly in a solid position to capture their first playoff berth since 2011.
“Once you get to this spot, this is where you want to be,” said Gregorius, who had two hits and two runs scored.
Brad Miller and starting pitcher Kyle Gibson each homered and Most Valuable Player candidate Bryce Harper added a hit, walk, RBI and run scored.
“I just got to keep going,” Harper said. “That’s what this organization expects. That’s what these fans expect as well. No matter who’s on the mound or how I’m feeling, I got to keep posting every day.”
Ronald Torreyes, who provided a clutch pinch-hit homer on Thursday, came back with a pinch-hit RBI single on Friday.
“He’s come up with big hits for us all year long,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said of Torreyes.
The Phillies will hand the ball to Ranger Suarez (6-5, 1.60 ERA). Suarez is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 4 1/3 career shutout innings against the Pirates in 2019.
The Pirates (57-96) have built leads in the first two games of this series.
They just haven’t been able to hold them.
“We have to continue to push when we get leads,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “That’s just a sign of youth and handling at-bats as we get through the game. It’s something we have to work on and continue to get better at.”
Wilmer Difo homered and knocked in two runs for the young Pirates, who continue to learn through some difficult losses.
“Like I’ve told you guys numerous times, I’m probably harder on myself than anybody else can be,” Shelton said. “I reflect a lot on in-game decisions that we make — continuing to learn and grow, asking different people their opinions about decisions that we’ve made and going from there.”
Wil Crowe (4-7, 5.77 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Pirates. Crowe is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his only career meeting with Philadelphia, a six-inning outing this season against the Phillies.
“I just think we’re trusting the process,” Crowe said. “We’re all learning at the big-league level. I don’t think anybody is worrying about their own statistics. They’re wanting to do what they need to do to help the next guy or to perform for the next guy, and we’re really coming together as one, as a unit. It’s fun to be a part of when we’re all clicking.”
–Field Level Media