PHILADELPHIA >> Nick Williams may never be happy as a role-playing, sometimes-starting, pinch-hitting outfielder. The difference is: He is less likely to make that known than he was a month ago.
“The last couple of days, and maybe even more, he’s matured,” Gabe Kapler said Sunday. “His attitude at the ballpark has been tremendous. His work ethic has been outstanding.”
Williams clubbed a sixth-inning Paul Sewald slider deep into the right field seats Sunday for a three-run, pinch-hit homer that helped the Phillies defeat the New York Mets, 4-2.
Earlier this season, Williams was found displeased with what he’d perceived as “computers” determining an outfield rotation that often keeps him out of the starting lineup. After quickly walking back that attitude, Williams has mellowed. Sunday, he provided his second pinch home run of the season.
“Man, what a tremendous job off the bench,” Kapler said. “What a difficult thing to do, to come off the bench and lay the fat part of the bat on the ball and get the ball out of the ballpark. That was a really impressive at-bat and it’s a big reward for him.”
Williams has seven pinch hits, tied with Chase Utley for the second most in baseball behind only Tommy La Stella of the Cubs, who has eight. Though hitting just .229, Williams is 7-for-15 as a pinch-hitter.
“I think this has matured me a lot,” he said. “It’s a situation I’ve never been in. I think it’s helped me in general grow as a player and a person. I think I am learning the game a lot better. The chances I do get I feel are helping me be a complete hitter.”
With that, he has been less likely to complain about the Phillies’ technology, or the manager that has all of its passwords.
“He’s the skip,” Williams said. “He’s the man in charge. It’s always nice to hear some good words. And I hope to keep this momentum going.”
Maybe Kapler’s computer is functioning properly.
“It’s a reminder that you don’t have to start a baseball game to win a baseball game for your team,” Kapler said. “He did that today and I’m really proud of him.”
After Hector Neris blew a save Friday night, Kapler used Edubray Ramos in the ninth Sunday.
Naturally, he attempted to make it sound as if the decision was no reflection on Neris.
“We’ve said that we’re going to use the best option, given what’s up in that spot,” the manager said. “Sometimes, that’s going to be Hector. Sometimes, it’s going to be Ramos. Sometimes, it’s going to be others.
“Hector is going to be given opportunities to close out games this season. But we’re going to be creative, and we’re going to match up effectively. We owe that to the Philadelphia Phillies, to protect our team with the best possible matchups.”
Ramos was ready for the moment, though he did walk Brandon Nimmo with two outs, bringing Asdrubal Cabrera up as the potential tying run. Cabrera lined to Rhys Hoskins in left to end the game.
“I truly believe we have a really good bullpen,” said Ramos, after his first career save. “I think we are all ready for any situation in any inning. I trust the guys. We have good trust in one another and I feel the manager is the same way.”
Carlos Santana hit his fifth home run in his last eight games, inflating a lead to 4-2 in the eighth. The first baseman has 16 RBIs in his last eight games.
“I’m feeling more relaxed and not trying too much,” Santana said. “I’m trying to make good contact. Before, I tried too much. I’m just thinking, ‘Play my game, help my team, play good defense, run hard,’ and right now, everything is positive.”
NOTES >> Odubel Herrera was 1-for-3 and has reached base in 41 consecutive games dating to last season. … Yoenis Cespedes, who homered in the sixth, has six home runs in his last seven Citizens Bank Park games. … The Phillies are off Monday and will begin a two-game series in Baltimore Tuesday night at 7:05. Nick Pivetta (2-2, 4.15 ERA) will face righthander Andrew Cashner (1-4, 4.84). … In 11 May games, Phillies starting pitchers have 67 strikeouts and a 1.99 ERA.