What’s next for Luke Williams?
A walk on the moon?
Seriously. Have you seen what this child has been doing in the last few weeks?
First he lights up the Phillies’ Triple A Lehigh Valley team, then he joins Team USA and leads the club by hitting while he helps it qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo, then he gets the call that any ball player dreams of, the first tells him he’s on his way to the big leagues.
And the next thing you know, he̵
“You can’t make this up,” said the 24-year-old Californian, his eyes foggy from that moment. “It’s pretty incredible.”
Yes it was.
The Phillies were down on their final out Wednesday night when Williams on his second day in the majors went on the plate and belted a two-run homer at the bottom of the ninth inning to lift his team to a dramatic 2-1 win over Atlanta Braves.
Williams’ first major league homer came the same night he hit his first big-league double, and one night after he bundled up for his first major league hit.
Before the battle-winning homer who came on a 0-1 shooter from the left closer to Will Smith, the Phillies had not had a hit since the fourth inning. That hit was a double by Williams.
Williams’ cardiac arrest, line drive to the left, came two strokes after Andrew McCutchen worked an eight-pitch, full-count walk to give the Phillies some hope.
Williams turned hope into a victory – one that candied Zach Eflin (six innings, one run) and Ranger Suarez (three pointless innings) deserved right – and a personal dream came true.
What a way to cover your first big-league start – with a fierce party on the home plate.
“I do not know if I will ever have words to describe this moment,” said Williams, who was a third-round draft pick for the Phillies in 2015. “I’m still trying to figure it all out.”
With years of experience and perspective, manager Joe Girardi was able to figure it out.
“There’s a lot of emotion there,” he said. “This game is so much fun and can be heartbreaking at the same time because of such moments.”
Williams hit .444 (8 for 18) with a double, a triple, a homer and six RBIs in four games to help Team USA qualify for the Olympics last week. He’s not going to Tokyo because the Phillies needed him in the big leagues, but that’s OK.
“This has always been something I’ve dreamed of,” he said of making majors.
Eflin was out of the game and saw the ninth inning in the coach’s room along with a couple of other pitchers as Williams went on the plate.
“It was electric, completely electric,” Eflin said. “We were in the coach’s room. We talked it into existence. We said, ‘Captain America will finish it right here.’ We said it and he clubs it. We freaked out.
“I think the boys needed this, needed to see that passion and that fire. For it to come down to two outs in the ninth and for Luke to clubb a two-run homer. Absolutely, it could be a momentum shift heading into tomorrow. We’re fired up. It could very easily be one of those moments in a season. ”
The Phillies have had trouble getting anything going consistently this season. After 60 games, they are 29-31, four games behind the NL East-leading Mets and half a game behind second-placed Braves.
Fans have not fully come behind this team. Citizens Bank Park is open at full capacity, but the audience on Wednesday night (13,552) was the third smallest in the history of the ballpark. Tuesday night (13,125) was the smallest.
Maybe Williams’ heroics will produce a few more fans on Thursday afternoon when the Phils will have a chance to win the series behind their best pitcher, Zack Wheeler.
During his Zoom conference with reporters after the game, Williams shook his head and tried to think of the last time he had hit a walk-off homer. Finally, he recalled doing so as a teenager in a travel ball tournament.
“Doing it in the big leagues is pretty indescribable,” he said. “I thought my phone exploded with texts the other day. I can not imagine tonight. ”
Moments after the home run sealed the victory, Williams joined the field ahead of the excavation by his parents, Mark and Jeannine, brother Ike and sister Samantha. The scene was both tender and triumphant. Mom and Dad had been in Florida for the Olympic qualifying tournament last weekend, flew home to Southern California on Monday and then back east to Philadelphia when their son was called up Tuesday. Samantha came in from Iowa, where she plays softball and Iowa State, and Ike from Utah, where he is a student at the University of Utah. The older brother Jake could not get in because he had been out of the country and had to undergo COVID protocols.
“It’s pretty incredible to have them here to witness this in person,” Williams said. “It was not just me who came here. I got a lot of people to help me, family, friends, coaches.
“It has not been the easiest journey. This is pretty amazing. ”
Yes it was.