Phillies

Phillies demolish Rays for rare AL East sweep

Phillies demolish Rays for rare AL East sweep

BOX SCORE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — First with his glove and then with his bat, Aaron Altherr came up huge in helping the sizzling Phillies stay hot with a 10-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon.

Altherr saved two runs with a diving catch in right field to end the sixth inning. Had he not caught Denard Span's first-pitch scorcher against reliever Luis Garcia, the Rays would have tied the game and who knows what would have happened the rest of the way.

Instead, the Phillies carried a two-run lead into the seventh inning then extended it to seven on the strength of a five-run eighth inning. Altherr highlighted that uprising with a three-run home run.

Altherr had been off to a frigid start — 2 for 34 — before the home run.

Altherr's offense and defense helped the Phillies sweep the Rays. It was the Phils' second straight series sweep and first in a three-game series against an American League East team since they swept Baltimore in June 2003. The Phils took three from Cincinnati last week and head to Atlanta for three Monday.

With six wins in a row, the Phils are now 9-5. That's their best start since 2011, the last year they made the postseason.

The Rays are 3-12.

Ben Lively did not have a good start. He lasted just four innings, gave up seven hits and three runs. He allowed two runs in the first on a solo homer by Span and an RBI triple by Mallex Smith.

The Phillies' offense came alive against Tampa Bay lefty Ryan Yarbrough in the third inning. The Phils scored four runs in the frame, three of which were unearned after an error by shortstop Daniel Robertson. Rookie Scott Kingery had the big hit in the inning, a three-run double with two outs. Kingery hit an 0-2 fastball over the centerfielder's head to clear the bases. Seven of Kingery's 14 hits are doubles and he has 12 RBIs in his first 13 big-league games.

In addition to Kingery and Altherr, the bullpen came up huge for the Phillies. It picked up five innings after Lively left and allowed just an unearned run.

The stickiest spot came in the sixth when the Rays, trailing by two runs, had runners on second and third with two outs and the lefty-hitting Span at the plate. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called for the right-hander Garcia, but he did not exactly fool Span. The Rays' leadoff man smoked a first-pitch liner to right. Altherr was well positioned. He took a few steps forward and made a diving catch, saving two runs.

• The Phils move on to Atlanta for three games beginning Monday night. Pitching matchups:

Monday night — RHP Aaron Nola (1-0, 1.96) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (0-1, 7.07)

Tuesday night — RHP Nick Pivetta (1-0, 2.70) vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-1, 2.93)

Wednesday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (1-1, 3.52) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 3.31)

Former Phillies 1st-rounder Jesse Biddle earns win in MLB debut

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Former Phillies 1st-rounder Jesse Biddle earns win in MLB debut

Former Phillies first-round pick Jesse Biddle had a memorable major-league debut Saturday night for a division rival. 

Biddle, the 27th overall pick by the Phillies in 2010 out of Germantown Friends High School, pitched a scoreless ninth inning of relief for the Braves, earning the victory after Atlanta came back in the bottom half against Mets closer Jeurys Familia.

Minutes earlier, Biddle had to bear down with two outs and a man on third base and his team trailing by a run. Yoenis Cespedes launched a moonshot homer to left field that was originally ruled a home run before being overturned to a foul ball. On the next pitch, Biddle got Cespedes to tap out to short to end the inning.  

Good for the now 26-year-old Biddle, who battled injuries during a rough minor-league career with the Phils. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2015, Biddle was traded to the Pirates and then claimed by the Braves in the spring of 2017.

The Phillies have no major-leaguers left from that 2010 draft class, which also produced Cameron Rupp, David Buchanan and Mario Hollands. 

Phillies set to activate Tommy Hunter after sending Hoby Milner to Triple A

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USA Today Images

Phillies set to activate Tommy Hunter after sending Hoby Milner to Triple A

The Phillies sent left-handed reliever Hoby Milner to Triple A after Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Pirates. Though the team said it would not announce a corresponding roster move until Sunday, the transaction clears a spot for reliever Tommy Hunter to be activated.

Hunter, 31, signed a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies in December, but was forced to begin the season on the disabled list after suffering a hamstring strain late in spring training. The right-hander has pitched twice at Double A Reading in recent days in preparation for his return.

Milner’s departure leaves the Phillies with just one lefty — Adam Morgan — in their bullpen. However, as manager Gabe Kapler mentioned several days ago, Hunter’s cutter can be effective against lefty hitters.

Hunter pitched in 61 games for Tampa Bay last season and held lefty hitters to a .170 (15 for 88) batting average and a .501 OPS. Righties hit .224 (28 for 125) with a .649 OPS.

Milner pitched 4 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. He allowed six hits and four runs. He walked three, hit a batter and struck out four.