With feet and glove, Bryson Stott makes a difference for Phillies in Game 5

PHOENIX — The noise at Chase Field in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night was almost enough to drown out the crack of Geraldo Pedromo’s bat.

Arizona had just gotten on the board against Zack Wheeler, nearing 100 pitches. A Phillies bullpen that had folded the last two nights was stuttering to life. And in a three-run game, Pedromo had a chance to pile on pressure and see what fissures it might open in the Phillies’ beleaguered pitching staff when he cut on a dead-center fastball.

Softly hit but well-placed, it looked ticketed right field. Until Bryson Stott, leaping at full extension, snared the ball behind him, steadied himself at threw out Pedromo at first.

The moment’s what ifs are palpable. If Stott doesn’t make that play, the Arizona lineup would’ve turned over, the would-be tying run stepping into the on-deck circle. Then maybe Wheeler doesn’t complete the seventh. And maybe J.T. Realmuto doesn’t have a chance to tack on two big runs in the eighth. And maybe the bullpen has to … perhaps better to not venture down that rabbit hole.

Suffice it to say that if Stott doesn’t get his soon-be-golden glove to it, maybe the Phillies aren’t flying back to Philadelphia with a 6-1 win and a 3-2 advantage in the National League Championship Series.

“It’s an amazing play,” third baseman Alec Bohm said. “It’s one of those things that kind of stops the bleeding quick. They hit a homer then a ball sneaks through the infield, maybe they get something else going. It just kind of puts a stop to that right away.”

The ball came off Pedromo’s bat at only 78 miles per hour. But the placement gave it a .390 expected batting average. And the Phillies need no reminder of how quickly things can snowball in the playoffs.

“You want to stop any momentum that they may be creating,” Stott said. “I was expecting something. I didn’t know it was going to be that. Just ready to make whatever play that came my way.”

Stott had made his impact on Game 5 long before his late dive. His opposite-field single in the first inning scored Kyle Schwarber and cashed in early traffic against Zac Gallen. His speed allowed the Phillies to push the issue on the basepaths, executing a double steal with Bryce Harper at third that scored a run and marked the first successful steal of home in franchise playoff history.

Stott, breaking from first, understands how that play foists pressure on a middle infielder. So the calculation was that if Harper broke quickly, he could get to the plate before the Diamondbacks stacked several steps of execution – the throw from catcher Gabriel Moreno to second, the relay back to the plate from Ketel Marte, the catch and tag from Moreno.

Particularly in a series where the Diamondbacks have been puzzlingly timid on the basepaths, the Phillies used their feet to force a mistake and were rewarded for it.

“It’s a big timing play,” Stott said. “A lot of stuff has to go right. It’s tough on the defense. Just me having to do that play as a second baseman, we’ve ran it. I’ve done it. It’s a really hard play.”

“We just wanted to put pressure on them,” Rob Thomson said. “There was two out there at the time, and they have to make two good throws. And I think that the catcher’s throw was a little bit low, so it causes a little bit of a rush for the second baseman, so it worked out.”

Defensively, there’s no question about what Stott provides. He’s become one of the most reliable infielders in the game in his first season as a full-time second baseman. He’s 10th in baseball in field run value at 13 and was named a Gold Glove finalist. He was the Phillies’ leader in wins above replacement at 4.4 this season, in part because of his strong defense.

“For me, I feel like when I see the ball hit at that angle toward him, I just feel like he’s going to end up with it,” Bohm said. “When it ends up sneaking through or I see him not diving, I’m like, ah man, he was way away from that one.”

Stott had struggled in his first two games in Arizona, going 0-for-6 with a walk. He supplied two singles Saturday and was a big part of the defense recovering from a lackadaisical Game 4 for a crisp Game 5.

It’s a big reason why Wheeler got through seven innings, and why the series shifts East with the Phillies one win closing out a second straight pennant.

“Wheels, he’s going to keep you involved,” Stott said. “I’ve been saying all year that we’ve got to make the plays behind those guys. They give us a ton of chances to do so, and they also get their strikeouts. You’ve got to make sure you’re always focused on the play.”

https://www.mcall.com/2023/10/22/with-feet-and-glove-bryson-stott-makes-a-difference-for-phillies-in-game-5/ With feet and glove, Bryson Stott makes a difference for Phillies in Game 5

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