Phillies take winning ways on the road with victory over Rays

Phillies take winning ways on the road with victory over Rays


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.

Phillies hitters rack up the strikeouts

Phillies hitters rack up the strikeouts


Winning covers up a lot of flaws. Or at least stops people from talking about them. So as the Phillies were running out to a 14-7 start in the new season, the alarming number of strikeouts that their hitters were racking up was hardly noticed.

Not Tuesday night.

Phillies hitters struck out 16 times in an 8-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (see first take).

Manager Gabe Kapler rationalized the high number of Ks by pointing out that opposing pitcher, lefty Robbie Ray, “is a strikeout guy with good stuff.” Indeed, Ray struck out 11 in just 4 2/3 innings.

Nonetheless, this was the 15th time that the Phils have reached double digits in strikeouts in 22 games this season. They entered the game ranked seventh in the majors with 211 Ks. Now, it’s up to 227.

“Part of working deep counts and seeing a lot of pitches is that you’re going to go through stretches where you strike out some,” Kapler said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to put the ball in play more. We do. It’s an absolute necessity. But sometimes you have to give credit to the opposing pitcher.”

Carlos Santana struck out three times. So did rookie Jorge Alfaro. Twenty-four of his 52 plate appearances have ended in a strikeout this season.

Rookie Scott Kingery led the way with four strikeouts. He is mired in his first funk as a big leaguer. Over his last 25 at-bats, he has struck out 12 times while collecting just two hits.

“The one thing we know is that the league is going to adjust to our hitters and we trust that Kingery has the ability to adjust back,” Kapler said. “We’re seeing some adjustments made. He was really, really good early on and he’s going to go through a stretch where he scuffles a little bit. It doesn’t change our confidence level in him. In fact, it's as high as it has ever been. We know he’s going to come back strong. He’s going to need to make some adjustments but there’s no doubt in his capability to do so.”

Kingery acknowledged his struggles and said he would learn from them.

“I’ve started swinging at balls in the dirt,” he said. “That's always been one of my weaknesses. I'm chasing a little bit right now. They're just really kind of nibbling over the plate. They're not really throwing me too much. They're starting to work ahead with off-speed and trying to get me to chase. So now it's something I'm going to have to adjust back to.

“I knew this was going to happen. Coming into the season, they probably didn't have much information on me. I didn't have much information on them. You start to see some tendencies and stuff like that. They start attacking areas that you're not strongest in and when I chase, that piles up the strikeouts for me.

“I'm going to have to adjust and learn some stuff now to get back to hitting the ball like I was in the beginning of the season. There's definitely room to learn and grow as a player. It's definitely going to be a learning experience that is ongoing.”

Arizona hitters struck out 12 times, but the D-backs hit three homers, two against Phillies' starter Vince Velasquez, as they improved to 16-6.

Phillies fall to Diamondbacks, finally lose at home again

Phillies fall to Diamondbacks, finally lose at home again


The test got a little harder for the Phillies on Tuesday and they did not fare well. They were beaten, 8-4, by the Arizona Diamondbacks on a rainy night in South Philadelphia.

The Diamondbacks hit three home runs. Phillies hitters struck out 16 times, four by rookie Scott Kingery. It was the 15th time they’ve reached double digits in strikeouts in 22 games this season.

The game was played in a not-so-swift three hours, 49 minutes.

The Phillies entered the game with the fifth-best record in the majors after posting a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh. Arizona, meanwhile, had the second-best record in the majors. The Phils fell to 14-8 with the loss while Arizona improved to 16-6.

Phillies starter Vince Velasquez’s string of three straight quality starts ended as he went just 4 2/3 innings.

Velasquez struck out four of the first six batters he faced then allowed back-to-back homers to open the third. His mates got him the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third but he ran into trouble in the fifth inning and was touched for a pair or runs after the first three batters reached on a walk, a single and another walk. David Peralta’s double brought home two runs for Arizona. Velasquez threw 36 pitches in the inning and got just two outs.

Arizona starter Robbie Ray had the stuff to strike out 11 in 4 2/3 innings. But he threw 107 pitches and got an early hook.

Victor Arano’s scoreless innings streak ended when he gave up an RBI single in the sixth as Arizona went up 5-3. Arano had not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings this season.

The Phillies shaved a run off the Arizona lead in the bottom of the inning on a two-out hit by Cesar Hernandez.

The Diamondbacks put the game away on a two-run homer by Daniel Descalso in the eighth. The home run capped a three-run inning against Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios.

• Odubel Herrera did not start as manager Gabe Kapler parlayed Monday’s off day in the schedule into an extra day of rest for Herrera.

“This gets him back-to-back days of full recovery and tissue repair,” Kapler said. “Then Odubel will get right back in there and play a long stretch of games.”

Herrera entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and was hit by a pitch. He has reached base in 24 straight games, dating to last season.

• Jorge Alfaro struck out three times. Twenty-four of his 52 plate appearances have ended in a strikeout this season.

• The rookie Kingery got the start in right field. He struck out four times and is 2 for his last 25 with 12 strikeouts.