Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win


A struggling rookie pitcher against the best team in the majors and arguably the best starter in the game …
On paper, this was not a good matchup for the Phillies.
But on the field, the Phillies managed to pull off a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace, Clayton Kershaw, Monday night.
Aaron Altherr accounted for all of the Phillies' runs with a grand slam against Kershaw in the sixth.
The Dodgers still own the majors' best record at 96-54. They entered the night with a magic number of four for clinching the NL West title.
• Good job by rookie Nick Pivetta, the Phillies' starter. The night did not get off to a good start for the right-hander as he gave up a pair of homers — one was an inside-the-parker — to the first two batters of the game. But those were the only runs that Pivetta gave up over six innings. His resilience and ability to keep his team in the game are a big reason the Phillies won. Pivetta (6-10) walked two and struck out eight. He had allowed 13 runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts.
• Kershaw (17-4) entered the game with a majors-best 2.12 ERA. He had been 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA on the road.
• Entering the game, five players in the Phillies' young lineup had never had an at-bat against Kershaw. Altherr was one of them. But a hanging slider is a hanging slider, even from a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Altherr got one with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning and sent it into the upper deck to turn a 2-0 Phillies' deficit into a 4-2 lead.
• Both starting third basemen, Justin Turner and Maikel Franco, made superb defensive plays. J.P. Crawford moved from second to third and made a sweet barehanded play to end the top of the eighth.
• The Phillies got good work from their bullpen even though Hector Neris allowed a home run to make it a one-run game in the ninth. Neris has been tormented by the Dodgers this season. Back on April 29, he gave up three ninth-inning homers in a 6-5 loss at Dodger Stadium.
• Rhys Hoskins bounced back nicely from an 0-for-11 weekend and reached base twice against Kershaw with a single and a walk. He drew a two-out walk to load the bases and extend the inning for Altherr in the bottom of the sixth.
• Chase Utley started at second base for the Dodgers and struck out in both of his at-bats (see story).
• The Phillies face some tough pitching in this series. They will go against Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) on Tuesday night and All-Star lefty Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) on Wednesday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) on Tuesday night and Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46) on Wednesday night. The series concludes Thursday afternoon with Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) squaring off against Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93).

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

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Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will be without Mark Leiter Jr.'s versatile arm for about six weeks. An MRI performed Monday on the pitcher's sore right forearm showed a strained flexor muscle.

Leiter had a good chance to make the opening day roster as a long reliever or fifth starter. With him out, the Phillies could be in need of a swingman.

Could Ben Lively be that guy?

"I can pitch anywhere," the competitive 26-year-old right-hander said. "I don't care. Wherever they want, I'll pitch."

Lively did nothing to hurt his chances of making the club as he turned in five shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-shortened 2-0 win Tuesday afternoon. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out four. He was particularly impressive in the fourth inning, striking out Justin Smoak and retiring Russell Martin on a tapper back to the mound with runners on second and third.

"I just tried to bear down and stick to the game plan," Lively said. "There's too much technology around here now. We have all the heat maps and we talked about it before the game and I just stayed with it."

Lively made 15 starts with the big club last year and 10 of them were quality starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Lively doesn't have power stuff. He gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings last season and struck out just 5.3 per nine. Management would love to see some improvement in those areas — i.e., more of what he displayed on Tuesday.

"Lively was strong today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He came out and attacked the zone.

"One of the things that is important is that we see some swing and misses with Lives and we saw a couple of bat-missing moments today that were, to me, a big deal. He induces quick contact, which is important, but we also like to see the ability to miss bats and we saw that on a couple of occasions, (Curtis) Granderson being most notable."

Granderson struck out twice against Lively.

"We look at past tendencies from recent years," Lively said of his pregame study. "The main one we looked at today was Granderson. He has a low slugging percentage on the outer half (of the plate), so we pounded him on the outer half the whole time."

With Jerad Eickhoff headed to the disabled list and Nick Pivetta likely to join Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, Lively appears to be vying for the fifth starter's job with Zach Eflin and non-roster invite Drew Hutchison. But he and Hutchison also could be vying for a long man's job in the bullpen.

By mid-April, the Phillies will probably have an eight-man bullpen. But they could break with an extra reliever because they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

However it shakes out, Lively did not hurt his chances of landing some role with his performance Tuesday.

Roster moves
The Phillies sent catcher Logan Moore, infielder Mitch Walding and outfielder Andrew Pullin to minor-league camp.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

Photo: NBCSP

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.