PHILADELPHIA — He hit a leadoff win Monday night for the sixth time in his big-league career, but when Bryson Stott came to bat in the third inning, it was two outs and no one on base. He trailed 0-2 to the National League Cy Young Award winner.
Sandy Alcantara flashed some inside dunks for Stott in the first half. “I really didn’t want to jam it,” Stott said. He took two fastballs up and even to the count of three. Stott did the Alcantara. That’s what a good hitter does, and sometimes it’s easy to forget. This was Stott’s only 504th appearance in a regular season game.
Trea Turner, bumped to second in the standings, watched from a deck circle as Stott matched Alcantara on court.
“It didn’t seem to matter who was on the mound,” Turner said after the Phillies’ 15-3 win over the Marlins. “He just keeps the bat together and that’s why he got the lead today. He got us going.”
Stott was rewarded for his fight. Alcantara threw something over the board, a change of 93 mph on the outside edge. “I was glad I stayed on the changeup after those two flicks,” Stott said. He served it to left-center field for one.
Stott stole second base. He scored on one of Turner’s right-handed hits. It wasn’t hard to imagine this becoming a formula for future lineups. The Phillies scored three more runs to make it a five-run home run. (Jake Keefe led off the third inning with a home run.) They scored four in the fifth inning and four in the sixth.
Perhaps Stott, the left-handed hitter, bats on top again on Tuesday night. Maybe not. There will be lefties on the hill. But, all spring, the Phillies were confident they could achieve higher expectations if Stott, Alec Baum, and Brandon Marsh all took a step forward.
Stott has a 10-game hitting streak. He has multiple hits in seven of those games.
“He was swinging the bat really well,” Turner said. “Even when he’s out, I feel like he’s been swinging really well on the pitches.”
The night before, Rob Thompson had sent Stott a message to tell him he was going to strike against Alcántara. The manager knew he was going to rest catcher JT Realmuto and that meant mixing things up. Instead of moving multiple people, Stott put on top and slid Turner and Kyle Schwarber down one spot. This was the path of least turbulence.
But there were reasons behind that. Thompson glowed, last summer, about Stott’s potential as a major hitter. One winter, the Phillies went and signed a guy for $300 million who possessed all the attributes of a perfect leadoff. So, Turner was that guy.
What if, instead, he hit second place? It moves Schwarber into third, the more traditional power spot in the lineup. “It really lengthens the lineup,” Thompson said, “and gives us two guys on top right now who can get to the bases, steal bases, and wreak havoc.” Whenever Thompson talks about it, he seems convinced this might work. But, even if the Phillies decide it’s best to stick with the plan they carried into the season, they know Stott is worth a look at the top later if circumstances warrant.
“I just see Bryson’s batters,” Thompson said before the blowout win, and said, “Okay. He’s getting on the base. He’s doing what Bryson can do. Let’s put him on top and then we’ll put some of those slackers up there behind him.”
It’s a testament to the work Stott, 25, has put into his approach to the dish. A year ago Monday, his major league career was two games away. He was just learning what was required to deal with the best shooters in the sport. Less than three weeks later, he returned to the palace.
He has 17 hits in his first 40 at-bats of the season. He did not record his 17th hit in 2022 until June 8—in his 95th strikeout. It was a different hitter at the beginning of June that earned him a short-term job on a team that came within two games of winning the World Series.
“I always thought he kind of fit the mold of a leading man,” said Thompson. “He sees a lot of pitches. He knows the hit zone. He uses the entire field. He can hit. He gets on the base.”
Monday’s second match against Alcántara showed his lead. Stott took the first fastball off Alcantara at 97 mph for a hit. He missed the slider at the knees for the second putt. He missed another fastball at 98 mph. Next, take those two fast balls up and in. He didn’t try to pull the change that came next.
“You know he’s going to take a beating,” Stott said of Alcantara. “He’s got some of the best, if not the best, stuff in the game. So if I lose focus at all, it’s going to be quick. I think just keeping my focus and trying to get the right pitch against him.”
This is the theme of stout in the first 10 games. He is confident and relaxed enough to wait for his offer. He was hit last season after a steady diet of fastballs. He rewatched those bats during the offseason and made adjustments to his swing that would close some of those holes.
He’s hitting fastballs in the first 10 games of the season.
“I feel good about it,” Stott said. “I still miss some here and there. But I feel a lot more right now than I did in the past. So that’s always a plus.”
When he connected for an Alcantara change, it marked Stott’s fifth hit of the season after starting at-bats with an 0-2 record. He had his sixth such hit, tied for the most in MLB, later in the game; He had 12 all last season. He’s doing the things the Phillies envisioned when they selected him with the 14th pick in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft.
At UNLV, Stott wrestled up front. He did it in the palace, too. “I don’t mind,” Stott said. “I just take the same bat. I don’t think it really matters to me.” Perhaps this is the beauty of Stott’s work now. The approach he honed while batting at the bottom of the lineup can stick anywhere Thompson wants. He looks like a hitter who can take a meaningful step forward in his second season in the big league.
“It doesn’t mean he’s driving tomorrow,” Thompson said. “We’ll talk about that after the game.”
After the match, Thompson had something to think about, and it was tempting.
(Top photo: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire/Associated Press)
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