The Phillies Batted the Pitcher 8th Last Night

It was the first time the Phillies did so since Steve Carlton batted 8th in 1979. The Phillies won on a walk-off single … by the guy hitting ninth.

Jeremy Hellickson batting 8th

The Phillies won last night on a walkoff single in the 11th inning, with Peter Bourjos driving home Freddy Galvis to salvage one game in a three-game series against the Mets.

Bourjos was in that position last night because the Phillies did something they hadn’t done in nearly 40 years: Last night, manager Pete Mackanin batted the pitcher 8th. Per beat writer Matt Gelb, it was the fist time since June 1, 1979, that the Phillies batted the pitcher 8th.

Baseball’s many stat fiends say batting order matters, but it doesn’t matter much. Studies say batting the pitcher eighth offers a tiny edge to teams — maybe only a few runs a season.

But, after decades where pitchers always batted 9th, suddenly the tactic is relatively commonplace. The Cardinals and Cubs have done it (to a very limited edge) in recent years.

It had mixed results for the Phillies last night, but it pretty much worked. Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson batted 8th, and sacrifice bunted a runner to second on his first trip to the plate. Bourjos, batting 9th, popped out. Still, the Phillies had the opportunity to drive in a runner from scoring position because of it.

Hellickson was the final batter of the fourth inning, and grounded into a fielders choice. But that meant that Bourjos led off in the fifth, instead of the pitcher. He grounded out, so it didn’t really matter. But in the 7th, the Phillies tied the game at 4 on a Bourjos single. (Darin Ruf, pinch hitting, struck out in front of him.)

Then, in the 11th, Bourjos got the game-winning single. So the strategy was no blockbuster in its first appearance for the Phillies since the 1970s, but it certainly showed some merits. Bourjos, who was batting below .200 coming into the game, ended up having two big hits out of the nine-hole.

The Phillies are 7-9, and finished their season-opening 10-game homestand at 5-5. They play in Milwaukee tomorrow.

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