Everything goes right for Phillies as they beat one of baseball's best pitchers

Everything goes right for Phillies as they beat one of baseball's best pitchers


A lot of things have to go right for a bad team to snap an eight-game losing streak against a pitcher who finished in the top five of the American League Cy Young voting each of the last four seasons and might end up winning it this season.

And a lot of things did go right for the Phillies on Thursday night as they rallied for a 1-0 win over lefty Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox (see Instant Replay), salvaging one game of a home-and-home interleague series that saw the Sox win twice in Boston on walk-off hits in extra innings and take the first game in Philadelphia, 7-3, on Wednesday.

Among the pluses that the Phillies strung together in winning their first ballgame in more than a week:

• Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta looked a lot closer to the guy who dominated at Triple A than the guy who struggled with his control in his first six big-league starts. The right-hander scattered four hits over seven shutout innings and struck out nine. He walked just two, a big improvement after he'd walked 16 in his first 29 1/3 innings.

• The defense was outstanding. Second baseman Howie Kendrick and leftfielder Daniel Nava combined to save three runs behind Pivetta with big plays.

• The relief pitching was on point. Pat Neshek's 25th inning of the season — he's allowed just two runs — might have been his best as he struck out dangerous Dustin Pedroia then got Xander Bogaerts to pop out to keep the game knotted at 0-0 in the eighth. Neshek got both of those outs with a man on third.

• The Phillies only had four hits on the night, but two of them were clutch — Andrew Knapp's one-out single off Sale in the bottom of the eighth and Ty Kelly's go-ahead, pinch-hit double that scored the game's only run one batter later (see story).

• The base running was also good as Knapp sprinted 270 feet from first base to score on Kelly's double. Third base coach Juan Samuel made a good call waving Knapp aggressively when he read a poor throw from leftfielder Andrew Benintendi.

That's a lot of good stuff from a team not known for good stuff.

"Boy, that was nice to see," manager Pete Mackanin said after the game. "We played those guys tough the whole series and we could have won a couple more."

One is better than none.

The win left the Phillies at 22-43. Despite having the worst mark in the majors, Phillies players buzzed with excitement after the game.

"That's an All-Star on the mound over there," said Knapp, reminding folks what pitcher the Phillies beat. "Going punch for punch with him gives us a lot of confidence. It's a pretty sweet win."

Sale struck out 10.

Pivetta had four 1-2-3 innings. He issued both of his walks in the second inning when things could have fallen apart for him if it weren't for Kendrick's tremendous diving play on a bases-loaded ball up the middle.

"Huge play," said the grateful Pivetta. "If that ball gets through, we're behind one or two runs and that's really hard against a guy like Sale. Just phenomenal. And Nava's play, too."

Nava gunned down a potential run at the plate in the fifth.

The game turned in the eighth, first with Neshek's work — he allowed a leadoff double and pitched out of trouble — then with the two improbable offensive heroes, Knapp and Kelly.

Knapp broke his bat on his single to left against Sale. That was a good thing because it allowed the ball to die in front of leftfielder Benintendi. Kelly's go-ahead double came on a breaking ball. He lined it into the left-field corner. Two nights earlier in Boston, Samuel had the potential tiebreaking run snuffed out at the plate on a throw from Benintendi. That was also in the eighth inning. This time, Samuel found redemption. It helped that Benintendi missed the cutoff man.

"Same kind of situation, exactly," Samuel said. "As you know, we're not scoring a lot of runs and we're not winning a whole lot of games. So in a situation like that you have to push the envelope a little bit.

"I was reading the throw and once I saw him overthrow the cutoff man, that had something to do with the decision also. But at the same time, we're facing Chris Sale. How many runs are we going to get? So you have to take some chances."

Is this the win that finally gets the Phillies going?

Who knows? Really, at this point it's reasonable to wonder if they are even capable of getting going. They put up a modest four-game win streak early last week then proceeded to lose eight in a row.

So maybe the thing to do is just enjoy this one, hope that Pivetta's outing was a sign of real growth, and get ready to play the Arizona Diamondbacks as they come in for the weekend.

Source: Phillies finalizing 2-year deal with Tommy Hunter

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Source: Phillies finalizing 2-year deal with Tommy Hunter

Matt Klentak keeps adding to his bullpen.

The Phillies are finalizing a two-year deal with reliever Tommy Hunter, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury on Tuesday night.

The experienced right-hander will join veteran righty Pat Neshek, who is on the verge of re-signing with the Phillies, multiple sources said on Monday (see story).

Hunter, 31, has played for five teams over parts of 10 seasons. In 61 games (58 2/3 innings) with the Rays in 2017, Hunter posted career bests with a 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .202 opponents' batting average, to go with 64 strikeouts and 14 walks. He started his career as a starter after he was taken in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Rangers. Since 2013, he has come out of the bullpen, compiling a 3.12 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

Hunter and Neshek will complement an already promising group of Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning," Klentak said Monday at the winter meetings. "If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."

Phillies seem content to wait on Manny Machado, pursue him as free agent next year

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Phillies seem content to wait on Manny Machado, pursue him as free agent next year

Updated: 9:50 p.m.

ORLANDO. Fla. — The Baltimore Orioles are shopping Manny Machado for a trade.

The Phillies love Machado.

So the Phils will do the deal, right?

It's not that simple.

Machado remained a hot topic on Day 2 of the winter meetings Tuesday and the lobby buzz made it all the way to the Phillies' war room. General manager Matt Klentak would not take questions about any specific players — that would be a tampering violation — but he was posed with a scenario that would reflect Machado's situation.

Machado, 25, will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Therefore, he is under contractual control for just one more season.

So, Klentak was asked whether he would be willing to give up a slew of young talent — that's what it would take to get Machado — for a player under control only for a short period of time.

Klentak mulled the question. He covered all sides in his answer. But in the end, it sure sounded as if he would not be willing to pay the price to trade for a player like Machado. It sounded as if he'd rather roll the dice that Machado became a free agent in a year then try to get him for just money and not prospects.

"It obviously becomes more attractive to us if a player is under control for future years, plural," Klentak said. "If it’s a one-year contract before free agency, it’s less attractive. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it. I realize these are less notable players than what you’re suggesting, but we’ve done that with some bullpen and starting pitcher additions the past couple years to acquire a player on a one-year deal. It really depends on what the return is, what would we have to give up in exchange for that player, whether that makes sense to acquire a player on a short-term contract. The years of control matter.

"I think we have to be open-minded to those scenarios, but the scenario you outlined presents some challenges that make it less likely. But we’re open-minded to just about everything."

Any team that acquires Machado, a slugging left-side infielder, this winter would have to be granted a 72-hour window from the Commissioner's Office to hammer out a contract extension before the deal is consummated. Even then, the deal would cost a team prospects and money. Look for the Phillies to stay in touch with the Orioles and monitor their asking price throughout the winter. But clearly, the Phillies prefer to hold on to as many of their young core players and prospects as they can as they seek to acquire players who would propel them closer to the top of the National League East.

This doesn't mean the Phillies would not be willing to subtract a young player or two for the right talent. The Phillies are looking for starting pitching and sources say they've investigated the possibility of acquiring young, under-control pitchers such as Chris Archer of the Rays and Michael Fulmer of the Tigers.

The Phillies are likely to add starting pitching through a trade, possibly one that involves shortstop Freddy Galvis or second baseman Cesar Hernandez. A person with a club from a team seeking a second baseman was asked about Hernandez on Tuesday. The person said the Phillies were being more aggressive in their efforts to move Galvis than they were Hernandez. That does not mean Hernandez will not be traded. The Phillies have set an extremely high price on him because he has three more years of contractual control and that is very valuable.

The Phillies' need for starting pitching and their deep pockets have led to a connection to free-agent Jake Arrieta. The Phillies, as is winter meetings custom, met with Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, but it's highly unlikely they would sign the pitcher because he will be 32 next season and word is he is seeking a deal that could approach $200 million. The Phillies don't believe they are far enough along in their rebuild to commit those dollars and the years it would take to get Arrieta. So don't hold your breath on that one (see story). If Arrieta is still out there in February and his price tag came way down, well, check back then.

"We've spent the last day and a half meeting with most of the prominent agents in the industry — a lot of agents represent players we're targeting and players we're not targeting — and I can understand why sometimes the connection will get made that may not be perfectly accurate," Klentak said. 

"We're very cognizant of the fact that we're a large-market team that has carried large payrolls in the past and does not have a lot of future commitments. We know this about ourselves, the agents know this about us, the fans know this about us. I think it's natural to connect the Phillies to players who are going to command a lot of money. 

"I've said this before: There will come a time where those connections will be accurate and we will spend again. For where we are right now, we are very committed to giving the reps to our young players and it would take a pretty special set of circumstances for us to deviate from that."

Klentak wants to improve the Phillies' "run prevention." It would be nice to add a starting pitcher — you can pretty much bet the Phillies will — but run prevention can also be addressed in the bullpen. Klentak suggested it was likely that the team would add another veteran reliever beyond Pat Neshek in the coming days (see story), and it is as the Phillies are finalizing a two-year deal with right-hander Tommy Hunter, according to a source Tuesday (see story).