ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Phillies stayed hot, rallying for a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of an interleague series Friday night at Tropicana Field.
Two rookies came up big in pushing across the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning.
Scott Kingery belted a one-out double and Jorge Alfaro followed with a two-out single as the Phillies broke a 1-1 tie against hard-throwing right-hander Alex Colome.
Hector Neris pitched the bottom of the ninth for the save. The bullpen collected seven big outs after starter Vince Velasquez departed. The right-hander hooked up in a nice pitchers’ duel with Jake Faria. Velasquez pitched well in a no-decision.
The Phillies have won four in a row and six of seven to improve to 7-5 under new skipper Gabe Kapler (see story).
Kapler started Kingery at third base over Maikel Franco (see story). Kingery struck out in two of his first three at-bats. In the ninth, he lined a 95-mph fastball from Colome to the wall in center for a double. The hit came on an 0-2 pitch up and out of the strike zone. Two batters later, Alfaro singled off third baseman Matt Duffy’s glove to score Kingery.
Velasquez strung together his second straight strong start in holding the Rays to four hits and a run over 6 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out seven. Economy of pitches has been a problem for Velasquez in his two-plus seasons with the Phils, but it wasn’t in this game. His pitch count was a manageable 93.
In his previous outing, Velasquez pitched six innings of one-run ball. Velasquez faced little pressure in that game as it was a 20-1 blowout of Miami. This affair was much tighter and he responded.
Velasquez gave up his only run in the second inning — he did not help his cause with a wild pitch in the frame — but kept the Rays off the board the rest of his stay. He handed off to Luis Garcia with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh. Garcia retired Wilson Ramos on a fly ball to center for the third out, preserving the tie. Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos also got important outs.
Faria bounced back from a dreadful start his previous time out. He threw 73 pitches in 1 2/3 innings and was tagged for eight runs on five hits and five walks. He was a different guy against the Phillies, holding them to two hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven.
Faria gave up a double to J.P. Crawford then walked Cesar Hernandez to open the sixth. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash then summoned lefty reliever Jose Alvarado to face Carlos Santana with two men on base. Santana lofted a soft flare to right. The hit would have loaded the bases but it bounced wildly off the artificial turf, allowing Crawford to race home with the tying run. The Phils continued to threaten in the inning, but Alvarado pitched out of trouble and struck out Nick Williams on three pitches with the bases loaded for the third out.