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September 12, 2016

Roman Quinn fuels Phillies to victory over reeling Pirates

The remedy for the reeling Phillies was not the comfort of home, where they were hitting .222 with a .281 OBP this year entering the week, but, instead, the comfort of sharing a field with the other team from their home state.

Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were 1 1/2 games behind the second Wild Card in the National League.

Things have not gone well in the two weeks since. They were swept at Wrigley Field by the powerful Chicago Cubs and then swept again at home by the lowly Milwaukee Brewers. They arrived to Philadelphia fresh off losing three straight to the lowly Cincinnati Reds.

The Phillies may still be the second most successful baseball team in the state of Pennsylvania in 2016, but as bad as they’ve been playing lately, they can’t match the current ineptitude of the sinking Pirates.

Rookie Roman Quinn celebrated his first career start at Citizens Bank Park – and second major league game, period – by collecting two doubles and knocking in two runs as the Phils rolled to a 6-2 win over the Bucs. The win snapped a three-game losing streak.

Quinn, who has a speed-power combo and body type that is reminiscent of Jimmy Rollins, ripped an opposite-field double off Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole with the bases loaded in the second to fuel a five-run inning -- and collect his first major-league hit in the process.

The 23-year-old Floridian finished the night 2-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI, a walk, and a stolen base.

"It's always great to get the first one out of the way," said Quinn, who went hitless with a walk on Sunday in Washington. "Being home in Philly after being drafted here, it’s incredible. It’s an incredible feeling."

Manager Pete Mackanin's biggest compliment to Quinn was arguably the last seven words from his postgame press conference.

"(Quinn) is going to play a lot," he said.

And after watching the former second-round pick in the last two games, it's easy to see why the manager (and anyone else watching) would be so enamored with Quinn's talent. 

While staying healthy has been his biggest hurdle – he has yet to play a full season since being drafted in 2011 – Quinn has used the at-bats he's had in recent years to improve as a switch-hitter and disciplined hitter that can bat at the top of a lineup. Quinn has hit .295 with a .359 OBP in 129 games at Double-A Reading in the last two years. 

But he also has surprising pop, too, for a player generously listed at 5-10, 170 pounds. In those game 129 games at Double-A, Quinn hit 10 home runs.

On Monday, after lacing a double to left in his second at-bat, Quinn launched a ball to center in the sixth. The ball carried all the way to the warning track on a play that eventually bought Cesar Hernandez across the plate with the Phillies sixth run.

"I thought for sure that was going out," Mackanin said.

Mackanin first saw the speedy outfielder's deceptive power this spring, in Quinn's first big league camp with the Phillies.

"We were playing in Tampa against the Yankees and he hit one to dead center field," Mackanin said. "It shocked everybody. He does have some pop."

But Quinn's best tool, one that's had Phillies officials excited since getting him to sign out of high school a half decade ago, and then scared a couple year earlier, when he ruptured his right Achilles', is his speed. Quinn showed it off in his first major league at-bat on Sunday, when he ran out a routine ground ball out as if a jetpack were attached to the back of his jersey.

On Monday, Quinn walked in his first plate appearance at Citizens Bank Park and then raced his way into second base for his first career stolen base. If Quinn is able to stick in the big leagues, it is likely to be the first of many.

Quinn went 159-for-205 in stolen base attempts in 356 minor league games. He was 31-for-39 in 71 games this season at Double-A Reading before joining the Phillies on Sunday.

For the second straight day, Quinn batted second behind Hernandez in Mackanin's lineup. Quinn and Hernandez (0-for-2, three walks) combined to reach base six times, with two runs, two RBI, and just one strikeout.

It's the kind of speedy duo atop a lineup that most manager's dream of having to put pressure on the opponent from the start of a game.

“It’s a nice feeling to have that kind of speed up front," Mackanin said. "I don’t want to get carried away but it was nice to see. We’ll see how it looks as we go along.”

Quinn won't get carried away either after two games. More than anyone, he knows the next game is never guaranteed.

But it he stays healthy in the next three weeks, Quinn should be a fixture in Mackanin's lineup as the Phillies coaching staff and management gauges his readiness for a regular big league job in 2017.

"It means a lot," Quinn said. "It’s a dream come true and it’s what I’m looking forward to."

Quinn's parents will arrive in town from South Florida later this week. On Monday, his fiance, Jeni McLemore, was among the 15,514 at Citizens Bank Park to take in Quinn's South Philly debut.

It was the smallest crowd of the season. If Quinn keeps at his current electric pace, the people will come. 

 • Catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, the prize of the Cole Hamels trade, also picked up his first big-league hit in his first career at-bat on a slow-rolling, pinch-hit infield single in the eighth inning. He’s scheduled to start on Tuesday night.

Prior to the game, Mackanin said Alfaro would likely start six-to-eight of the final 18 games on the Phillies schedule.

"(Making a good) first impression, that’s the best they can do," Mackanin said of Alfaro and Quinn. "They could make a statement.”

The last time two Phillies collected their first big league hits on the same day? It was on April 25, 2008: infielder Brad Harman and reliever Chad Durbin

Odubel Herrera went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. Herrera was back in his position in center field, with Quinn starting in right on Monday night. 

Perhaps Quinn's presence will bring Herrera's bat back to life. Herrera entered the game hitting .227 with a .295 OBP, 53 strikeouts, and 16 walks in 56 games since July 7. Interesting, the Phillies placed Quinn right next to Herrera in the Phillies currently-crowded home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

"We don’t want to send any kind of message to Odubel (Herrera) that he’s not going to be the centerfielder," Macknanin said before the game of starting him in center and Quinn in right. "He’s our centerfielder right now. Quinn will play all three (outfield positions) and he’s played all three (in the minor leagues)."

Freddy Galvis hit his second home run in as many days and 18th of the season, tying Tommy Joseph for third-best on the team behind Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard. Galvis has hit nine home runs in his last 30 games.

Jeremy Hellickson held the limp Pirates bats to one unearned run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings to earn his 11th win of the season.

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