PHILADELPHIA – Phillies manager Joe Girardi seemed to make a peculiar decision when he chose not to start catcher J.T. Realmuto on Thursday night.
It turned out Girardi knew exactly what he was doing.
The Phillies pulled off another remarkable come-from-behind win, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-6 before 16,154 fans at Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia trailed 6-0 heading to the bottom of the third. Ronald Torreyes gave Philadelphia the lead for good with a three-run, pinch hit home run in the bottom of the sixth. Realmuto eventually came off the bench to go 3 for 3 with two runs scored, a two-run home run and four RBIs.
Philadelphia (79-74) trails the first-place Atlanta Braves (80-71) by two games in the National League East.
Considering how the Phillies seem to need to win just about every game left to keep their playoff hopes alive, Girardi’s decision not to start Realmuto was strange because the catcher was on a hot streak. He was 5 for 16 with three RBIs in four previous games before Thursday.
Girardi said Thursday was probably Realmuto's last day off of the season.
“It's hard to give him a day off,” the manager said before the game. “But he's caught six of the last seven. He was in the seventh game. He's played every day here. I just figured to keep him productive, it might help. But if I need him, he'll be in there.”
Girardi couldn’t have looked smarter. He picked the perfect time to put Realmuto in the game. With the Phillies down a run, Realmuto led off the sixth inning as a pinch hitter. He singled to right field.
Two groundouts and an intentional walk later, Torreyes lined a 92.3 mph fastball from Pirates reliever Anthony Banda 366 feet into the left field stands for a three-run home run to put the Phillies up 8-6. It was Torreyes first career pinch hit home run.
"He's had so many big hits for us," Girardi said of Torreyes, "and that's probably the biggest one so far."
Realmuto then gave the Phillies some breathing room with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh. He added a two-run single in the eighth. He is the first Phillie since Chase Utley on July 22, 2004 to get three hits and four RBIs in a game he did not start.
Realmuto begins Friday 7 for 15 with seven RBIs on the current homestand. He has struggled much of the season. His slugging percentage of .440 is his lowest since 2016.
But if he can stay hot for the season’s final nine games, Realmuto would give the Phillies playoff chances a major boost.
"I rested him for five innings," Girardi said with a smile after Thursday's win. "There's his rest."