Nick Williams did not set out to be a pinch hitter in the major leagues; who does? Still, what he set out to do and what he is doing are two entirely different things. On Sunday, the Phillies outfielder came to the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth with the Phillies down 1-0, two out and two on. Williams had been in this position before. Despite his displeasure being a non-starter for much of this season, Williams made his 15th plate appearance as a pinch-hitter. He patiently waited for the Mets’ Paul Sewald to throw him something he liked. On the fourth pitch of his at-bat, Williams found what he was looking for and delivered a three-run homer that put his team on top 3-1. It was the second-year player’s 7th pinch-hit of the season and his second home run.
Williams’ ability to come through in the clutch has not gone unnoticed by his teammates or manager. Williams now has six RBI and two homers as a pinch hitter.
“Nick Williams. Man, what a tremendous job off the bench,” Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler said after the Phillies beat the Mets 4-2. “What a difficult thing to do. Come off the bench and lay the fat part of the bat on the ball and get the ball out of the ballpark. A really impressive at-bat and it’s a big reward for him because the last couple of days, and maybe even more, he’s matured. His attitude at the ballpark has been tremendous. His work ethic has been outstanding. And he really earned the opportunity to come in and get a big hit for us. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to start a baseball game to win a baseball game for your team. He did that today and I’m really proud of him.”
Earlier this season Williams expressed his displeasure about being relegated to the bench telling Matt Breen of Philly News in April, “I guess the computers are making it, I don’t know,” Williams said, referencing the team’s reliance on analytics when charting a lineup. “I don’t get any of it but what can I do? I’m not going to complain about it because I have zero power. I’m just letting it ride.”
What Williams is learning is he does have power. He can make his at-bats count when he gets them. His seven pinch hits have him tied for second-most in baseball with former Phillies favorite, Chase Utley.
“You have to stay in the game. It’s a hard thing to do as a young player,” Williams said. “But I have to stay ready, stay loose, and you never know what can happen.”
While Williams would not choose to be a reserve, he has found his situation beneficial.
“I think this has matured me a lot. It’s a situation I’ve never been in,” Williams said. “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 it’s helping me be a complete hitter. I’ve been taking some tough pitches and working the counts. It’s been helping me as a player.”
No one argues with success. Williams is batting .466 as a pinch hitter; the Phillies have won seven of their last ten games, and they are just one game behind the Braves for the National League East lead.