The Phillies offensive numbers coming into Wednesday night's game against the New York Mets were something less than anemic. Looking for any solution that might help, the Phillies manager put Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot, where he batted 26 times last season. Herrera has been drawing walks at an impressive rate, but his average has dipped well off the pace of where it was last season. The end result though, is that his on-base percentage has remained high (.426 coming into Wednesday night) and Pete Mackanin thought that both he and the team might benefit from hitting leadoff.
Mackanin also looked at a struggling Peter Bourjos and initially had him batting eighth. As the manager explained to Scott Franzke on the Phillies pre-game radio show, Mackanin had never been convinced that hitting the pitcher eighth was a good idea, but suddenly, it seemed to make sense. With Bourjos struggling, he might get better pitches to hit if he had Herrera batting behind him rather than the pitcher, plus, he would be in a better position to use his speed on the bases, if he did get on base. Mackanin also liked the fact that Herrera might still have a shot at driving in a run or two if Bourjos could get on and work his way into scoring position. With those thoughts as ammunition, Mackanin switched Bourjos to ninth and put pitcher Jeremy Hellickson in the eighth spot.
Needless to say, the move worked.
Herrera continued to get on base, with a hit and a walk - it was the seventh straight game he drew a walk - and looked comfortable hitting leadoff. Hellickson's eighth spot came up in a spot where a bunt was in order and Hellickson was able to drop a sacrifice bunt to put a runner into scoring position. But it was Bourjos that really made things work. The veteran outfielder singled in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game 3-3. The game would stay tied until Bourjos again came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th and his speed paid off as he beat out a groundball to third base for an infield single, allowing Freddy Galvis to score from third to give the Phillies a win, salvaging a game in the series.
The last non-pitcher to bat ninth was Bud Harrelson, when manager Danny Ozark had Steve Carlton, a pretty good hitting pitcher, bat eighth and dropped Harrelson to ninth. On that day, Carlton went 0-for-3 and Harrelson was 1-for-3 in a 4-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Greg Gross wound up pinch-hitting for Carlton in the ninth and grounded into a fielder's choice and Dave Rader followed as a pinch-hitter for Harrelson against reliever Pedro Borbon and grounded out to first to end the game.
After the game, Mackanin hinted that he may keep Bourjos in the ninth spot, but it likely won't be long-term.
"It worked out tonight, we'll see. Once [Bourjos] starts swinging the bat better, like I know he can, then I probably won't do that. It just happened to fall into place tonight," said Mackanin to Stephen Gross of The Morning Call after the game.