Cesar Hernandez

Rhys Hoskins gets that 5th at-bat, becomes Phillies' hero

Rhys Hoskins gets that 5th at-bat, becomes Phillies' hero

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ATLANTA — Rhys Hoskins flung his bat to the ground in a rare show of frustration and disgust after striking out in the eighth inning. An hour later, he had a smile on his face and beams of colored light bouncing off his face.

Ah, the redemptive ways of baseball.

Hoskins struck out three times and grounded into one of four Phillies’ double plays in his first four at-bats Tuesday night. But when the 10th inning rolled around, Hoskins got another chance to do some damage and he did plenty. He stroked a tie-breaking, two-run double to right field with two outs to start a four-run rally and help lift the Phillies to a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park (see first take).

“I think I learned from an early age that you have to want that fifth at-bat,” Hoskins said amid the bouncing lights and blaring music that fill the Phillies’ clubhouse (home and away) after wins. “Somehow the baseball gods always seem to put that guy into a situation to try to win the game. It happened today. That’s what we dream of as hitters, to be in that situation in extra innings.”

Hoskins hit a 2-2 pitch, a 95-mph fastball from right-hander Jose Ramirez, to score Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez, who both shined in setting the table. 

“Rhys’ first couple of at-bats weren’t his best of the season,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “So to see him dig in and get a knock against a guy with some velocity was pretty awesome. The entire dugout erupted on his behalf. Pretty awesome.

“He’s a strong-minded individual. There are so many guys who fold in that situation. The night starts off bad, they’re 0 for 3, they’ve punched out several times and, boom, they’re licked mentally. He just has a different level of grind. He’s just very strong mentally.”

Nick Pivetta pitched five innings of one-run ball and the bullpen delivered five scoreless. Odubel Herrera drove in a run and made a nice catch at the wall.

Kingery, who came off the bench in the seventh, drew a walk to open the 10th. With Hernandez at the plate, Kapler gave Kingery the green light and the rookie swiped second on the second pitch that Ramirez threw to Hernandez. It was a gutsy call and a gutsy play by Kingery but the Phillies had good intel on Ramirez’s move and time to the plate. Kingery slid hard and held the base with a fingertip.

“You’ve got to get a runner in scoring position somehow,” he said. “We had good information, so I felt confident.”

Kingery moved to third on a nice base-hit bunt by Hernandez, who then stole second. After struggling Carlos Santana (he’s hitting .136) struck out and Herrera popped out, Hoskins came up with two outs.

“He had a little bit of a rough day and you knew he wanted to come up big,” Kingery said. “I had a feeling he was going to get the job done there. That was just a good at-bat by a good player. It was just another example of this team getting big hits in big situations and kind of fighting until the end.”

The Phils are 10-6. They have won nine of their last 11.

Phillies take winning ways on the road with victory over Rays

Phillies take winning ways on the road with victory over Rays

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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.

Don't forget Pivetta when talking about Phillies' early-season bright spots

Don't forget Pivetta when talking about Phillies' early-season bright spots

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A lot of good things happened Wednesday night for the Phillies, more than enough to overcome Hector Neris’ first blown save since last June.

The Phils beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, in 12 innings (see first take) to complete a three-game sweep and a pretty spiffy 5-1 homestand (OK, they didn’t beat the ’27 Yankees, but you can only play the team that the schedule-maker sends your way) on the strength of:

• Scott Kingery’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the 12th and run-saving throw from left field in the sixth inning.

• Odubel Herrera’s homer-robbing catch on a Scooter Gennett drive to center in the 10th inning.

• Cesar Hernandez’s two-out solo homer in the fifth inning.

• J.P. Crawford’s two-run homer in the first inning and sacrifice bunt to set up the winning run in the 12th.

While these were all highlights, perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the win — maybe the entire homestand, for that matter — was the pitching of Nick Pivetta. The 25-year-old British Columbian made two starts during the homestand and allowed just nine hits and two runs over 12 2/3 innings. He walked zero and struck out 16 over that span.

No one is pronouncing Pivetta as arrived, but the Phillies might have a pretty good starter blooming here.

“The concentration level is different than it's been in the past,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Pivetta, who joined the Phillies in July 2015 when Jonathan Papelbon was traded to Washington. “The intensity level is different than it's been in the past. He's been able to maintain it throughout longer stretches. He worked diligently in spring training to attack with fastballs up in the zone and to use his curveball to play off of that. We're seeing him mix and match with his curveball and his slider effectively and appropriately. Those are two things that are really coming together. Being able to land your secondary pitches for strikes is not the easiest thing to do for a young pitcher, and he's doing it consistently.”

Injuries forced the Phils to push Pivetta to the majors last season and he went 8-10 with a 6.02 ERA in 26 starts. That’s not pretty, but the experience he gained was invaluable and now it’s paying dividends.

“My number one thing is you’ve got to learn from your failures and I feel like right now — I still have a lot to learn — but I went through a lot last year and this year I can kind of handle certain situations and minimize damage," he said.

“I learned from my mistakes last year. I worked hard with [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and everybody not trying to be so perfect in the strike zone. I think that really has carried over this year and it's been good so far.”

Pivetta allowed just two runs over seven innings and struck out seven. Kapler trusted him to go back to the mound at 92 pitches for the seventh inning and the right-hander responded with a quick, 11-pitch inning. He was on his way to a win before Neris blew a one-run lead in the ninth. Yacksel Rios ended up getting the win in relief. Pivetta had to settle for covering a few more miles on the road to becoming a good major-league starter.