Chris Sale

Ty Kelly turns into Phillies' unlikely hero against Red Sox ace Chris Sale

Ty Kelly turns into Phillies' unlikely hero against Red Sox ace Chris Sale

Less than two months ago, Ty Kelly wasn't on the Phillies' roster. 

He'd spent his nine seasons in pro baseball with five different organizations. And after the Mets designated him for assignment in early April, Kelly bounced from Queens to Toronto's Triple A team in Buffalo before finally landing in Philadelphia.

So when the same Kelly — who entered Thursday night with just 87 career major-league at-bats under his belt — stepped to the dish in the bottom of the eighth against a lights-out Chris Sale, he was facing one of the hottest arms in baseball, one with a 0.93 WHIP and a 95-plus mph heater.

But it was the career minor leaguer and not the five-time All-Star who delivered, with Kelly slapping a hanging slider from Sale down the left-field line. Phils third base coach Juan Samuel waved Andrew Knapp home for what would wind up being the game-winning run in a 1-0 victory (see game story).

The double was only the seventh hit for Kelly this season. For a guy who has seen little action this year, the moment did not faze him.

"The expectations are kind of tempered a little bit because [Sale's] pitching so well," Kelly said. "You're just going up there trying to do something positive, try to hit a ball hard, and hope it falls ... I'm pretty relaxed going into those kind of at-bats and I don't feel a ton of pressure. If anything, it's less pressure against someone like that."

Sale cruised through the first 7 1/3 frames. The southpaw struck out 10 and had surrendered only two hits before Knapp came up a third time in the eighth and earlier results hadn't been pretty for the first-year catcher against Boston's ace. Yet after striking out and grounding back to the pitcher, Knapp roped one into left to set up Kelly for what would be the crucial point of the night.

Like Thursday's hero, Knapp also has seen limited chances this year. Backing up Cameron Rupp, the Phillies' 2013 second-round selection made just the 27th appearance of his rookie campaign Thursday and entered with only 19 hits in 81 at-bats.

Yet, as Knapp made his way around third, he had nothing on his mind but sending his team on its way to a win, one that ultimately snapped an eight-game skid.

"I knew anything could happen down [in the corner]," Knapp said. "But the mentality you have to have going around the bases is, 'Yes, yes, yes,' and then they stop you. I was going until he stopped me and [Samuel] just kept waving me."

For a struggling lineup, it was another quiet night.

The first seven guys in the Phillies' order mustered only two hits and a walk to go along with eight strikeouts vs. Sale. No one seemed to be able to figure out his side-arm stuff that had already earned him eight wins and a sub-three ERA this season. 

So when Pete Mackanin's team needed a lift and Sale made what he called "the worst pitch of the game at the wrong time," a pair of unexpected offensive outlets got the job done.

"It's always huge when you get a pinch hit and it happens to win the game for you," Mackanin said. "It was a good call by Juan Samuel — late in the game, I like to see him be aggressive like that. ... All in all, there's a lot to be said for [Knapp and Kelly]."

The last time Kelly came to bat in as critical a situation as Thursday's against this caliber of a pitcher was last year's wild-card game when he pinch-hit for the Mets against Madison Bumgarner. Although he did turn that eighth-inning chance into a base knock as well, he was stranded on second.

This time, although Kelly found himself on second at the end of the eighth once again, he'd done his duty — and against one of baseball's best arms, adding to the best moments of his still-short major-league career.

"Those are the at-bats that, as a player, you want," Kelly said. "It's way harder to hit down 10 [runs] or up 10 against somebody because there's nothing riding on the at-bat. So when you've got a chance to just put a ball in play and it could move the guy over, there are tons of positives that can come out of an at-bat like that."

So what's different about this one?

"I don't know. Maybe more of my friends will text me tonight," Kelly laughed.

Instant Replay: Phillies 1, Red Sox 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 1, Red Sox 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat one of the best pitchers in baseball Thursday night. Pinch-hitter Ty Kelly doubled home Andrew Knapp for the game's only run to give the Phillies a 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox and lefty Chris Sale, the majors' strikeout leader.

The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Phillies. Three of those losses came against the Red Sox in the first three games of the home-and-home series.

The Phillies had just three baserunners (two hits and a walk) against Sale in the first 7 1/3 innings. Knapp singled with one out and scored on Kelly's double to left. Third base coach Juan Samuel was waving Knapp the whole way and Boston leftfielder Andrew Benintendi missed the cutoff man. Two nights earlier, Samuel waved home Howie Kendrick and Benintendi gunned him down to help the Red Sox win.

Pat Neshek got the win in relief. Nick Pivetta had his best start in the majors.

The Phils are 22-43, worst in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Pivetta was outstanding in his seventh big-league start. He delivered seven shutout innings, gave up four hits, two walks and struck out nine. The right-hander's control was much improved. He has walked 16 in his first six starts.

Sale (8-3) gave up just four hits and a run. He walked one and struck out 10. It was his ninth double-digit strikeout game of the season. Sale entered the game having won seven straight decisions.

Bullpen report
Neshek had arguably his best inning of the season in putting up a zero in the top of the eighth. He allowed a leadoff double to Sale then proceeded to get three outs, the last two with Sale at third base. He struck out No. 2 hitter Dustin Pedroia for the second out and got Xander Bogaerts to pop out to first base for the third out. Neshek has pitched 25 innings this season and allowed just two runs.

Hector Neris got the save.

At the plate
Kelly and Knapp were the two offensive stars.

Tommy Joseph upped his hitting streak to 11 games.

In the field
Second baseman Kendrick made a brilliant diving play on a bases-loaded groundball up the middle by Sale to end the top of the second and save at least two runs behind Pivetta.

Leftfielder Daniel Nava cut down a runner at the plate to end the top of the fifth and keep the scored tied at 0-0.

Up next
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday night — RHP Aaron Nola (3-4, 4.40) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (5.6, 5.38)

Saturday afternoon — RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-7, 5.09) vs. RHP Zack Godley (2-1, 2.44)

Sunday afternoon — RHP Ben Lively (1-1, 3.00) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (7-3, 2.62).

Tonight's lineup: Another night off for ice-cold Cameron Rupp

Tonight's lineup: Another night off for ice-cold Cameron Rupp

Can Tommy Joseph win the matchup with Chris Sale again tonight?

Joseph, who went 2 for 2 with a homer, double and three RBIs last season against Sale, bats cleanup tonight as the Phillies wrap up their home-and-home series with the Red Sox.

The Phillies' lineup tonight is the same as it was last night, save for Andrew Knapp starting behind the plate in place of the ice-cold Cameron Rupp.

The Phils' production from their two catchers has nosedived. Rupp has hit .105 over his last 57 at-bats with one extra-base hit and 22 strikeouts. Knapp is 2 for 16 over his last four starts.

The Phillies obviously have their work cut out tonight against a pitcher on pace for 314 strikeouts, a total nobody's reached since teammates Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling both did it in 2002 (see game notes).

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Howie Kendrick, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Nick Pivetta, P