Stairs saves Phillies from notoriety
Pinch-hit homer in eighth prevents team from being no-hit
PHILADELPHIA -- The approach never changes for Matt Stairs.
Pinch-hit at-bat with nothing on the line? Try to hit a home run.
Pinch-hit at-bat with a no-hitter on the line? Try to hit a home run.
Stairs stepped into the batter's box to face Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Dave Bush with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Bush had a no-hitter to that point, with Brewers third baseman Bill Hall making a spectacular play to retire pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to start the eighth.
But Stairs crushed a 3-1 cutter off the right-field foul pole to break up Bush's no-hit bid.
"Luckily, he threw a cutter that didn't cut," Stairs said. "I think it backed up on him."
Stairs, who has hit 16 pinch-hit regular-season home runs in his career to lead active Major Leaguers, said he felt no extra pressure with the Phillies just five outs away from being no-hit for the first time in a nine-inning game since St. Louis' Ken Forsch no-hit them April 16, 1978. (Montreal's Pascual Perez threw a five-inning no-hitter against the Phillies on Sept. 24, 1988.)
"Maybe that's why I've had good success," Stairs said. "I don't think about it too much. I don't overdo it in the batting cage. I take four or five good swings and then let the adrenaline go when I'm on deck."
Stairs joked that he first noticed the no-hitter in the first inning, but he really started to take notice in the seventh.
"Oh, damn," he said.
Then, when Hall made the play on Dobbs to leadoff the eighth -- Hall caught the ball moving to his right and made a great throw to first base while his momentum carried him into foul territory -- he really took notice.
"I looked back at the bench and looked at Jimmy [Rollins], and I'm like, 'Uh oh,'" Stairs said. "You always have faith in your players, and that hitters are going to get hits. Yesterday, we squared up, and today we didn't really hit anything hard."
Stairs said he had never broken up a no-hitter that late in a game before.
"I've broken up a lot of no-hitters in the first inning," he said.
Stairs said Bush had success because he was throwing his offspeed stuff for strikes. That might be true, but Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wasn't happy with the approach his hitters took to the plate throughout the afternoon in the eventual 6-1 loss.
"The first ball we hit hard today was Stairs' ball off the foul pole for a home run," Manuel said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.