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‘That game was basically over and boom!’: Brandon Phillips delivers in a big way

Brandon Phillips is all smiles after his game-winning blast.john bazemore/AP

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ATLANTA — The Red Sox took a pass on Brandon Philips when rosters expanded last week and the first wave of players arrived from Triple A Pawtucket.

More specifically, manager Alex Cora did. It took a few days for him to be convinced the 37-year-old Phillips would be a positive addition to his first-place team.

Veteran players, particularly three-time All-Stars, can have expectations rookies do not and their sway within the clubhouse can be considerable.

Phillips — who refers to himself as “Dat Dude” — is not one to sit quietly in the corner.


President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski left the decision with Cora. He sought the advice of Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles and bench coach Ron Roenicke, who was on the Angels’ coaching staff last season when Phillips joined that team.

They vouched for Phillips, as did others, and Cora decided on Monday morning that Phillips could join the team.

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Now Phillips will be remembered as the centerpiece of the most exciting victory in a spectacular season. His two-run home run in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon sent the Sox to a stunning 9-8 victory against the Atlanta Braves.

“Honestly that was the most fun I had all season,” Cora said.

On a day Cora held five starters out of the lineup to rest, the Sox scored six runs in the eighth inning to tie the score, then two more in the ninth when Phillips hit a 432-foot home run to left field off Braves closer A.J. Minter.

In his first major league game since last Sept. 30, Phillips reached base three times and scored three runs.

“Incredible win for this team,” said Phillips, who grew up in the Atlanta area and played for the Braves most of last season before an August trade to the Angels.


Facing Minter, a former teammate, for the first time, Phillips swung so hard at a fastball that he stepped back to regain his balance before taking a satisfying trot around the bases.

“I just wanted to see something up and something I could drive,” said Phillips, the first player in Red Sox history to hit a go ahead-homer in the ninth inning or later in his debut with the team.

Phillips’s home run was the only one the Sox hit in the series.

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“We all lost our minds in the dugout when Brandon hit that home run,” said Chris Sale. “That game was basically over and boom! That’s why we love sports.”

That one swing made a summer of restless waiting worth it for Phillips. The free agent went unsigned until he agreed to a minor league contract with the Sox in late June.

Phillips played well in the minors without assurances of a promotion but declined several opportunities to opt out of his deal.

“For me to get here and for me to do what I did today, it was quite amazing,” Phillips said. “Especially for me to do it in Atlanta in front of my family and friends. That was pretty awesome.”

In what was their biggest comeback of the year, the 97-44 Sox finished 5-2 on their penultimate road trip of the season, sweeping three games from the Braves. They start a nine-game homestand on Friday night against Houston.


Phillips follows the flight of his homer.kevin c. cox/Getty

With 21 games left in the season the Sox are steadily closing in on their third consecutive American League East title and the franchise’s first 100-win season since 1946.

The Sox had two hits through the first seven innings, having fielded a lineup that did not include Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez.

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz allowed one run over six innings, that in the second inning when Phillips dashed home from third base on a grounder to first.

The Sox appeared finished when the Braves scored five runs off Drew Pomeranz to take a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning.

“Nobody was down. Something about these guys, they really don’t care,” Cora said.

Christian Vazquez, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the eighth with singles to load the bases against Dan Winkler. Blake Swihart’s double to right-center drove in two runs.

Facing lefthander Jonny Venters, Benintendi singled to left field to score Bradley. Steve Pearce pinch hit and sent a 108-mile-per-hour line drive to left field that was caught for a sacrifice fly.

It was at this point that many Red Sox fans in the crowd of 28,386 started to get excited.

Phillips reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Johan Camargo that sent Benintendi to third.

Ian Kinsler pinch hit against righthander Brad Brach and drove a two-run single to left field. That tied the score at 7.


With two outs, Vazquez singled and Bogaerts pinch hit. He drew a walk off Minter to load the bases.

Cora then turned to Betts. He got ahead, 2-0, in the count before striking out looking at borderline pitch masterfully framed by catcher Tyler Flowers.

“Thank God for September baseball, I guess,” said Cora, who used 15 of his 17 position players, 11 in the eighth inning.

The Sox fell behind again when Freddie Freeman homered off Brandon Workman with two outs in the bottom of the inning. But Benintendi singled off Minter with one out in the ninth. With two outs, Phillips got his chance.

Craig Kimbrel restored order, closing out the Braves in the ninth for his 38th save.

“We stole a game,” Cora said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.