By Sam Bush
This wasn’t supposed to be the way the Phillies rolled in 2017, but…
Cesar Hernandez ignited a big rally in the eighth inning that helped the Phillies sweep Atlanta and improve to 9-9.
He hit a two-run home run to right-center field against Arodys Vizcaino to hand the Phillies a 3-1 lead.
Hernandez is hitting .338 (27-for-80) with four doubles, one triple, four home runs, 10 RBIs, 18 runs, three stolen bases and a .939 OPS in 19 games. He has the best OPS of any second baseman in the National League and ranks third among all second basemen.
Hernandez is playing like an All-Star.
“He’s got a chance,” Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco said. “If he keeps doing what he’s doing he’s definitely got a chance. He’s showing power right now. He’s got four homers already.”
Four homers in 18 games? Hernandez hit six last season and just eight from 2013-16.
“I’m surprised,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez hit .248 with six doubles, four triples, two home runs, 16 RBIs and a .630 OPS in 245 plate appearances through June 20 last season. He got benched in back-to-back games in Minnesota in June, then hit .327 with eight doubles, seven triples, four home runs, 23 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 377 plate appearances the rest of the way.
His continued excellence atop the Phillies’ lineup has helped the offense, which is ninth in baseball in runs scored (85).
“I love watching Cesar hit the ball,” Herrera said. “He has a beautiful swing, and he makes great contact on the ball. It’s great to be behind him.”
“I played with him in Williamsport in short-season [in 2010], and even then he could always hit,” Altherr said.