Brandon Phillips

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Anatomy of a comeback: 'It was like, 'Uh-oh, we're starting to do it'' as Sox shock Braves

John Tomase
September 05, 2018 - 10:37 pm
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In a year full of memorable victories, with history about all they're competing against until the playoffs, the Red Sox continue to amaze themselves.

Wednesday's 9-8 victory over the Braves wasn't their most important win of the year, or even their most dramatic -- the Sunday Night Baseball comeback against Aroldis Chapman to complete a sweep of the Yankees probably headlines both categories.

But in terms of sheer improbability, it's hard to top the twin rallies that toppled the NL East-leading Braves to complete an Atlanta sweep.

Trailing 7-1 in the eighth, the Red Sox erupted for six runs to tie it. Trailing 8-7 and down to their last out in the ninth following Freddie Freeman's go-ahead homer, the Red Sox turned to an unlikely hero and Brandon Phillips delivered the titanic two-run shot that made Boston a winner in not only the veteran's Red Sox debut, but his 2018 big league debut.

"It was fun," manager Alex Cora said. "I think honestly that was the most fun I had all season just watching the last few innings."

To call this one a team effort would be an understatement. The Red Sox dug deep into the September roster to use 21 players. The Frankenstein's monster starting lineup included Jackie Bradley at leadoff, Blake Swihart playing right field and batting second, and Phillips. Regulars like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez spent most or all of the game on the bench.

"The team that we threw out there is pretty solid, and then you have all those guys waiting in the wings for a big spot," said Brock Holt.

The fun started in the eighth when Christian Vazquez, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Bradley opened with consecutive singles.

"You could sense it," Cora said. "They went to the bullpen and Christian gets a hit and Lin gets a hit and then when Jackie got a hit it was like, 'OK, it's on.' We were one swing away from 7-4 and put pressure on them but it's all about them. They could have folded and said you know what let's go home, it's been a productive road trip, people are taking about leads and where we are in the standings and all that. Whatever let's go home, enjoy the off day and get Houston on Friday, but it was no sense of that.

"Everybody was pulling for each other, pinch hit for a lot of guys and nobody was upset, they knew it was the right, that we were all in. Here we go, so we might as well."

Swihart's two-run double, Andrew Benintendi's RBI single, and Steve Pearce's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 7-5 before Phillips reached on an error and scored on Ian Kinsler's game-tying single to left.

"It was awesome. It was like, 'Uh-oh, we're starting to do it,'" Pearce said. "Then, boom, the hits started to happen, we scored on the error, took advantage of it. We all felt the momentum starting to shift. We all felt it. Everybody felt it. Then we started delivering."

The inning ended with pinch hitter Betts striking out looking to leave the bases loaded, but the Red Sox were in business.

Not for long, as it turned out. Brandon Workman retired the dangerous Ronald Acuna and then got Ender Inciarte before Freeman blasted his 21st homer to right-center. Three outs separated a rousing win from a disappointing defeat.

But Phillips had other ideas. After Benintendi ripped an 0-2 pitch for a one-out single, Pearce struck out. That brought Phillips back to the plate. The 37-year-old hadn't appeared in a big league game since going 1-for-4 in a loss to the Mariners with the Angels last Sept. 30.

He waited for something over the plate from reliever A.J. Minter and did not miss, unleashing a swing so big, he nearly fell out of the back of the batter's box on his follow-through. Acuna never even flinched as the ball sailed way out to left field.

"My favorite part about the whole thing was the lean-back that he had," said teammate Brock Holt. "He hit that ball, and instantly, we knew it was gone. That's a big hit right there. He's been doing it for a lot of years in the big leagues. We're lucky to have him here. He won this game for us."

All in a day's work for the best team in baseball, which improved to 97-44. Only five teams in franchise history have won more games, and 23 games remain.

"This is one of those where you look back like, 'How did we win that?'" Holt said. "It was a lot of fun."

(WEEI.com's Rob Bradford contributed to this report from Atlanta)

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