Clayton Kershaw

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies (59-91) vs. Dodgers (96-64)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Nick Pivetta the giant-killer helped the Phillies to a series-opening victory last night in a game the Phillies had no business winning. Despite having the highest ERA in the majors (6.57) among pitchers with at least 100 innings, Pivetta has somehow led the Phillies to wins in games against Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale, the sport's two best lefties.

The Phils get another tough test tonight in right-hander Yu Darvish, who can be just as unhittable as Kershaw when he's not missing over the middle.

• Aaron Altherr's grand slam last night was the first ever allowed by Kershaw, who has made 302 career starts including the postseason. The Phillies are now the only team against which Kershaw is two games under .500 in his career.

• Altherr this season has eight home runs in 109 plate appearances against lefties. From 2014-16, he had just one homer against lefties in 106 plate appearances.

• Altherr has also homered 12 times in 48 games at Citizens Bank Park this year. One outta four ain't bad.

• Interesting that the Phillies shifted J.P. Crawford to third base last night and brought Cesar Hernandez in to play second once they had the lead. It kind of shows that this coaching staff views Crawford as a better defender than Maikel Franco, which is meaningful moving forward. Crawford made a fantastic running barehand pickup last night to get the Phils a tough out.

• One of the things that makes Darvish so good is that his velocity ranges from about 68 mph with his slow curve to 96 mph with his fastball. He has 9.96 strikeouts per nine innings this season, 11th-most in baseball.

• Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) starts tonight for the Phillies, coming off a career-high 11 strikeouts vs. the Marlins. The Dodgers are a very good offensive team but this is still a decent matchup for Nola because of the swing-and-miss in the games of Cody Bellinger, Curtis Gradnerson, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig. Look for Nola to attack Bellinger with two-seam fastballs that start inside and come back over the inside corner after Pivetta had success doing so last night.

• Since Aug. 27, the only team in the majors with a lower bullpen ERA than the Phillies is the Cleveland Indians. Luis Garcia fired another scoreless inning last night. He's allowed one run in his last 17 appearances.

Behind grand slam, Aaron Altherr, Phillies take down Clayton Kershaw, MLB-best Dodgers

Behind grand slam, Aaron Altherr, Phillies take down Clayton Kershaw, MLB-best Dodgers

BOX SCORE

There was no way the Phillies were winning this game, right? Seriously, best team in the majors against one of the worst. Nick Pivetta carried a 6.75 ERA into his start — that's the fifth-highest ever by a Phillies pitcher in a season in which he'd pitched at least 110 innings — and he was facing one of the best pitchers in the game in Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young award winner, entered with the best ERA in the majors — 2.12 — and he'd allowed just one run in 31 innings in his previous four starts against the Phillies.

What's more, five players in the Phillies' lineup had never faced Kershaw, and usually, the advantage goes to the pitcher in those situations.

So what happens?

The Phillies win the game, 4-3, and one of those players who'd never faced Kershaw accounts for all the runs with a grand slam, the first one that Kershaw has allowed in his career (see observations).

"That's obviously pretty special to be the first one to do that," said Aaron Altherr, who provided the grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning. It turned a 2-0 Phillies' deficit into a 4-2 lead.

"I definitely don't take it for granted. He's obviously a really good pitcher. I just thank God I was able to get a pitch to hit."

"You try to make it just another game when you face him, but deep down you know it's really not because of how good he is and how good he's been over the years. He's a future Hall of Famer. So it's definitely awesome to be able to play against a guy like that."

And beat him.

"Boy, that was fun, any time you beat Kershaw, it’s really nice to see," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Kershaw is now 17-4 with a 2.26 ERA.

While Altherr's grand slam was the big blow, it wasn't the only important contribution from the Phillies' side.

Pivetta (6-10) allowed a pair of solo homers on the first five pitches of the game — one was a leadoff, inside-the-park homer to Chris Taylor — but settled down nicely and followed with five scoreless innings to give his team a chance.

Pivetta, who'd allowed 13 runs in 10 innings in his previous two starts, gave up just two hits (both singles) and a walk after the first inning. He finished with eight strikeouts. His stingy work over his final five innings kept the Phillies in the game until Altherr's heroics with two outs in the sixth.

"The thing I like about him is he really thinks he’s good, he really believes in himself," Mackanin said of Pivetta. "He didn’t quit and he keeps battling, that’s the thing I like about him the most, along with his stuff."

The Phillies' decisive sixth inning against Kershaw started with a pinch-hit walk by Ty Kelly and included a one-out single by Freddy Galvis and a two-out, full-count walk by Rhys Hoskins. Altherr followed with his grand slam.

"It was nice to do something like that but it honestly wasn't all me," Pivetta said. "I wouldn't have gotten that win if Altherr hadn't hit that grand slam and it wouldn't even have started if Ty didn't get that walk and Freddy didn't get that hit and we didn't get another walk, so the guys putting up good ABs in that situation was really nice to see. This win goes out to the team around me and not just me. I mean, yes, I put in five shutout innings after that, but just having those guys pick me up at the end, I think that's what really contributed to this win. It was a nice little boost because I haven't been doing the best lately."

Altherr's grand slam came on a hanging, 1-1 slider. It came off the bat at 107 mph and landed 418 feet from home plate in the second deck above left field.

"I was just telling myself not to get beat," Altherr said. "The first two at-bats, I got jammed. I just wanted to make sure I got the head out. I think he threw me a slider again. I was finally able to get the barrel to it."

The bullpen made the lead stand up, though Hector Neris allowed a solo homer to Curtis Granderson in the ninth to make it a one-run game. Back on April 29, Neris allowed three ninth-inning homers to blow a lead at Dodger Stadium. It was one of the Phillies' worst losses of the season.

"I thought about that right at the start of the inning," Mackanin admitted. "I’m sure he was thinking about it. But the thing I liked about him is he looked like he was eager to go right after the hitters, even when he gave up the home run, he didn’t back off. He went right after them, which was nice to see."

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win

BOX SCORE

A struggling rookie pitcher against the best team in the majors and arguably the best starter in the game …
 
On paper, this was not a good matchup for the Phillies.
 
But on the field, the Phillies managed to pull off a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace, Clayton Kershaw, Monday night.
 
Aaron Altherr accounted for all of the Phillies' runs with a grand slam against Kershaw in the sixth.
 
The Dodgers still own the majors' best record at 96-54. They entered the night with a magic number of four for clinching the NL West title.
 
• Good job by rookie Nick Pivetta, the Phillies' starter. The night did not get off to a good start for the right-hander as he gave up a pair of homers — one was an inside-the-parker — to the first two batters of the game. But those were the only runs that Pivetta gave up over six innings. His resilience and ability to keep his team in the game are a big reason the Phillies won. Pivetta (6-10) walked two and struck out eight. He had allowed 13 runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts.
 
• Kershaw (17-4) entered the game with a majors-best 2.12 ERA. He had been 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA on the road.
 
• Entering the game, five players in the Phillies' young lineup had never had an at-bat against Kershaw. Altherr was one of them. But a hanging slider is a hanging slider, even from a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Altherr got one with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning and sent it into the upper deck to turn a 2-0 Phillies' deficit into a 4-2 lead.
 
• Both starting third basemen, Justin Turner and Maikel Franco, made superb defensive plays. J.P. Crawford moved from second to third and made a sweet barehanded play to end the top of the eighth.
 
• The Phillies got good work from their bullpen even though Hector Neris allowed a home run to make it a one-run game in the ninth. Neris has been tormented by the Dodgers this season. Back on April 29, he gave up three ninth-inning homers in a 6-5 loss at Dodger Stadium.
 
• Rhys Hoskins bounced back nicely from an 0-for-11 weekend and reached base twice against Kershaw with a single and a walk. He drew a two-out walk to load the bases and extend the inning for Altherr in the bottom of the sixth.
 
• Chase Utley started at second base for the Dodgers and struck out in both of his at-bats (see story).
 
• The Phillies face some tough pitching in this series. They will go against Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) on Tuesday night and All-Star lefty Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) on Wednesday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) on Tuesday night and Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46) on Wednesday night. The series concludes Thursday afternoon with Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) squaring off against Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93).