Phillies

Phillies-Marlins observations: Aaron Nola, bullpen lit up before rally falls short

Phillies-Marlins observations: Aaron Nola, bullpen lit up before rally falls short

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MIAMI — It was crushing night for the Phillies, who experienced intense physical pain at the batter’s box and on the basepaths as well as the mental anguish suffered by staff ace Aaron Nola, who was rocked by the Miami Marlins for the third time this year.

The Phillies lost 10-9, but the score alone falls way short of chronicling how much this one hurt.

• Centerfielder Pedro Florimon's second-inning injury was indicative of how the night would unfold for the Phillies.

He beat out an infield hit to the hole at shortstop, extending his hitting streak to seven games and improving his batting average to .348. But he got hurt as he stepped on the bag and was carted off the field in excruciating pain.

• The Phillies, with two starter-caliber outfielders already on the disabled list in Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, got more bad news in the seventh when leftfielder/first baseman Rhys Hoskins got hit with a 97-mph fastball by Marlins reliever Brian Ellington.

Hoskins, who was struck on the right hand, stayed in the game to run but was taken out midway through the bottom of the inning on a double switch.

He finished the night 3 for 3, falling a triple short of the cycle. His homer was his 12th of the season, ending a five-game drought.

• In three starts against the Marlins this year, Nola is 0-3 with a 10.85 ERA. Overall this season, Nola has been strong, entering Saturday night’s start with a 10-9 record and a 3.46 ERA.

Nola allowed a pair of homers Saturday, to Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors with 52 long balls, and to Marcell Ozuna, who has 32 and drove in four runs on the night.  

• The pitches Nola threw that resulted in the homers did not appear to be awful. Instead, credit is due to Stanton and Ozuna.

The 1-1 pitch to Stanton, a 92-mph fastball, was possibly a strike but very low in the zone. The 1-1 pitch to Ozuna, a 91-mph fastball, was inside and tight. But Ozuna somehow got his hands out and pulled the ball.

• Entering the game, Stanton was 3 for 6 with a double and a homer in his career against Nola. That first homer was recent – Aug. 22 in Philadelphia.

Ozuna was 4 for 13 with one homer against Nola entering Saturday. Ozuna went 4 for 5 with four RBIs on Saturday, although not all that damage was against Nola.

• Credit Hoskins on his homer as well. The pitch from Dan Straily was an 84-mph breaking ball that caught too much of the plate. Still, for young hitters especially, hitting a big-league breaking ball is often the hardest thing to do.

• Nick Williams, who tripled twice at Marlins Park on July 19, hit another three-bagger Saturday. This one was a three-run triple in the eighth, closing the Phillies’ deficit to 10-8. The Phillies got to within 10-9 on a Daniel Nava RBI single.

• Of Williams’ four triples this year, three have been hit at Marlins Park. In addition, he has 33 RBIs this season, placing him among the top three NL rookies in that category.

This was Williams’ first three-RBI game since July 24 against the Houston Astros.

• Rookie Drew Steckenrider of Miami got his first career save with a scoreless ninth, striking out the final two batters … a fitting end on a painful Phillies night.

Phillies are 14-7 and there's reason to think they'll get even better

Phillies are 14-7 and there's reason to think they'll get even better

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If you were told at the beginning of the season that 21 games in, Carlos Santana would be hitting .151 and Aaron Altherr .157 ... what would you think the Phillies' record would be?

It probably would not have been 14-7.

And yet here the Phillies are, a game behind the Diamondbacks for the best record in the National League after completing a four-game sweep of the Pirates Sunday.

This win was dramatic, with the Phillies coming back from a two-run deficit and walking it off in the 11th inning (see first take). Altherr played the hero with a game-winning single after Andrew Knapp just missed a walk-off homer to the left-field wall and settled for a triple.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler called it the proudest he's been of his team.

"I just think there were so many standout performances up and down the lineup, across our roster," Kapler said. "Getting Tommy (Hunter) back, there were just so many positive things that happened, you can't help but instill confidence.

"We're having a lot of fun. Keeping it light, we laugh in the dugout. I hope you guys are seeing that. A lot of smiles and a lot of laughter, and after the games, we're having a great time in [the clubhouse]. We take it seriously and we prepare like animals, but we also enjoy each others' company and we're laughing a lot."

The most interesting part about this hot start is that the Phillies aren't even firing on all cylinders. The pitching has been great — particularly the starters, who have a 2.38 ERA and 0.98 WHIP the last 12 games — but the Phils are hitting just .231.

They do, however, lead the majors with 98 walks. They couldn't muster much offense Sunday against Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams, but they made him work. Through five innings, Williams was at 83 pitches with a breakdown of 42 strikes and 41 balls.

"Once we really start getting going it's gonna be real fun because we're in these games even when we're not feeling the best at the plate," Knapp said.

"We've been putting really quality at-bats together. I know the average isn't there, but we're making pitchers really work. We're seeing a ton of pitches and that's a big deal." 

Altherr didn't even start Sunday, but he came in midway through the game on a double-switch and ended up going 3 for 3 with a triple and the game-winning knock. He needed a game like this in the worst way. He entered the afternoon 5 for 48 (.104) with 18 strikeouts.

"It can be really difficult," Altherr admitted. "It's getting more difficult as the days went on. I know it's just baseball and things like [bad luck] happen, but you start wondering when it's going to start turning here. I'm just trying to stay positive and working the cage. I've been working on getting my timing back."

Kapler was especially excited for Altherr, who will be a key member of this offense moving forward even after a rough April.

"Coming out of camp, we felt strongly that he was one our best offensive players," Kapler said of Altherr. "We felt like he was going to be an incredible contributor with the bat. And he's had to endure a lot early in the season. He's had some bad luck. He's had to endure not being an everyday guy so far. 

"Every single day he came with a smile on his face. He's come prepared. He's worked his tail off. Good things happen to good people. He's going to get plenty of opportunities to perform for us. But I couldn't be happier for the way his at-bats have gone over the course of the last three or four days. He just got rewarded today. It felt like everything fell into place the way it should for Aaron. Really, really excited he came up big the way he did today. He deserves it."

Phillies' 2 most surprising pitchers pave way for walk-off win

Phillies' 2 most surprising pitchers pave way for walk-off win

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The Phillies walked it off against the Pirates Sunday, winning 3-2 in 11 innings to complete a four-game sweep over a team that entered Citizens Bank Park six games over .500.

Andrew Knapp and Aaron Altherr took care of the 11th-inning heroics with a triple and a game-winning single, but it was the work of the Phillies' two most surprising pitchers which put them in position to do so.

Nick Pivetta continued the Phillies' strong run of starting pitching, allowing two runs over 6⅓ innings with seven strikeouts. He paid for his only mistake, a two-run homer by catcher Elias Diaz. The Phils had just one hit while Pivetta was in the game.

Victor Arano, who began the season by retiring 25 consecutive batters, lost his streak of perfection but more importantly weaved his way out of rallies in both the ninth and 10th innings, stranding two runners apiece.

At 14-7, the Phillies ended Sunday's game just a half-game behind the Mets and Diamondbacks for the best record in the National League.

They allowed just five runs in the four-game sweep of the Pirates.

Dominant starting pitching
The Phillies' starting rotation has been lights-out the last dozen games. Just have a look:

• 2.38 ERA
• 0.98 WHIP
• 8.0 K/9
• 1.8 BB/9
• .218 opponents' batting average
• 11 extra-base hits allowed in 12 games

Pivetta himself is on a roll, allowing a total of five runs in his last four starts. 

Including the final few weeks of 2017, Pivetta has a 2.00 ERA over his last eight outings with 47 strikeouts and 12 walks in 45 innings.

Pivetta has been especially effective the first time facing a batting order this season. His opponents have hit .167/.195/.195 the first time through with 15 strikeouts and no walks.

There are just three National League pitchers who have 14 Ks and no walks the first time through a batting order and the Phillies have two of them in Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. (D-backs lefty Patrick Corbin is the other.)

Make 'em work
Offensively, the Phils couldn't muster much off Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams. They did, however, have five walks and a two-run fifth inning keyed by Pivetta's first career double and RBI. 

Through five innings, Williams had thrown 42 strikes and 41 balls. This Phils team really makes pitchers work.

Hunter debuts
Reliever Tommy Hunter made his Phillies debut after missing the first 20 games with a hamstring injury. He had a quick, impressive eighth inning, retiring the side on just eight pitches with a groundout, popout and strikeout.

Hunter was signed to a two-year, $18 million contract this offseason.

Up next
The Phillies are off Monday before beginning a three-game home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who entered Sunday tied with the Mets for the best record in the NL (14-6).

The pitching matchups for that series:

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (1-2, 3.80) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (2-0, 4.98)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.04) vs. Zack Greinke (2-1, 4,13)

Thursday: Ben Lively (0-1, 4.64) vs. Matt Koch (0-0, 1.13)