Oakland Athletics

West Chester's Joey Wendle enjoys 'pretty surreal' grand slam against Phillies

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West Chester's Joey Wendle enjoys 'pretty surreal' grand slam against Phillies

The ball jumped off the bat and the small section of friends and family jumped from their seats and began to roar. Joey Wendle not only had just hit his first career grand slam Sunday, it came against the team he rooted for while starring at Avon Grove High School and leading West Chester University to a national championship. 

The Oakland second baseman had to be reveling in the moment as he circled the bases at Citizens Bank Park, right? 

“Did I run around the bases? I don’t even remember that,” Wendle said. “Yeah, it was pretty surreal.”

Wendle’s second career home run came one year to the day after he went deep against Yu Darvish in Texas and in just his fifth game since being recalled from Triple A Nashville. It was the go-ahead homer in the Athletics’ 6-3 victory (see story)

“Definitely a special memory,” the 27-year-old said. “Definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The Phillies led 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning when Henderson Alvarez was lifted after walking Matt Joyce and allowing a single to Chad Pinder. Left-hander Hoby Milner came in and struck out Matt Olson for the first out, and then manager Pete Mackanin brought in Edubray Ramos. 

The righty struck out Matt Chapman but then walked Mark Canha to load the bases. 

Up came the lefty-hitting Wendle. And he wasted no time by pouncing on a first-pitch slider and drilling it to right field. 

“That guy has more than a strikeout per inning and I was looking for something up in the zone because I knew what he could do if I got buried in the count,” Wendle said. “Just got a slider, kind of backed up a little bit and I was able to drive it out.”

Wendle finished 1 for 4 and is 3 for 9 since his call-up. He hit .285 with eight homers and 54 RBIs in 118 games at Triple A. 

Wendle faces obstacles to stick with Oakland. Veteran Jed Lowrie is ahead of him at second base and Franklin Barreto is a 21-year-old prospect the A’s value. But manager Bob Melvin said he’s been happy with what he’s seen from Wendle, who’s the first alum of Division II West Chester to play in the big leagues since John Mabry retired in 2007. 

“It’s one thing to hit a grand slam to put your team ahead. It’s another when you do it at home,” Melvin said. “And this is a close-knit group of guys, especially the younger guys that we brought up and Joey’s been with them, so they were really happy for him.”

Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss

Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss

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A local kid did in the Phillies on Sunday.

Joey Wendle, who starred at West Chester University and Avon Grove High School, belted a go-ahead grand slam off Edubray Ramos in the sixth inning to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 6-3 victory. 

It was the second career homer for the 27-year-old Wendle, coming one year to the day after he went deep against Yu Darvish in Texas. 

The second baseman’s blast to right in front of family and friends at Citizens Bank Park spoiled a decent return to the big leagues for former All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez. 

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who dropped two of three in the series. 

Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers in the fourth against Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013 and was an All-Star a year later before multiple shoulder surgeries. He hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since May 22, 2015. 

• Alvarez (0-1) went five-plus innings and left with a 3-2 lead after giving up a walk and single to lead off the sixth. He was charged with four runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He certainly pitched well enough to earn another start as he auditions for a 2018 job. 

• Alvarez became the 31st player to pitch for the Phillies this season, a new record besting the 30 hurlers in 2015. 

• Relying on a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, Alvarez looked smooth while retiring the first five batters. He didn’t allow a hit until Marcus Semien’s two-out double in the third. 

• Pinder crushed Alvarez’s hanging curve for his 15th homer to lead off the fourth and Olson followed by homering to right on a 91 mph fastball to tie it at 2. 

• Olson certainly out-Hoskined Rhys Hoskins in the series. The rookie homered in all three games and has 21 in 53 games compared to 18 in 37 games for Hoskins. Olson has four homers in five games, six in eight and 13 in 19. He has hit 10 in September. 

• Hoskins flung his bat in disgust after flying out to right against Sean Manaea (11-10) in the fifth. He was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and fanned six times while going 0 for 11 in the series. 

• Left-hander Hoby Milner replaced Alvarez with two on and nobody out in the sixth and struck out Olson to extend his streak of scoreless appearances to 21 games (see story)

• Ramos (2-8) replaced Milner and struck out Matt Chapman and walked Mark Canha to load the bases before Wendle crushed a first-pitch slider. 

• The A’s showed why they’re the worst defensive team in baseball. Chapman had two errors at third base to boost the A’s MLB-high total to 118. Chapman booted Aaron Altherr’s two-out grounder in the first that led to two unearned runs. 

• J.P. Crawford, who drove in two runs while playing third base Saturday, started at shortstop as Freddy Galvis was out of the starting lineup for the second time in three games. Crawford moved up to second in the order and went 0 for 2 with three walks. 

• Aaron Altherr was back in center field after resting his hamstring Saturday and hit cleanup. Manager Pete Mackanin inserted him between Hoskins and Nick Williams. 

• Alvarez began the game with almost all fastballs — until throwing a 53.6 mph Eephus pitch to Olson in the second that was taken for a ball. 

• The Phillies, before the game, honored A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich. He’s been with the team 50 years, joining the club just 13 years after it left Philadelphia. The only other person to be the franchise longer: Connie Mack. 

• Former Phillies star Chase Utley returns to town Monday night with the major league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers to start a four-game series. Utley had three doubles in the past two games and was hitting .234 with eight homers before a Sunday night game at Washington. 

• Pitching matchups for the Dodgers series: Monday: LH Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12 ERA) vs RH Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.75). Tuesday: RH Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) vs. RH Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60). Wednesday: LH Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) vs. RH Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46). Thursday: RH Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) vs. RH Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93). 

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

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Jorge Alfaro didn’t hesitate when asked what’s more important to him. 

“Defense, clean games. That’s all I’m thinking about,” the young catcher said early Sunday morning. “If I hit, thank God.”

Alfaro provided the Phillies with a needed bonus at the plate Saturday night, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer into the center field bushes in the sixth inning. He also guided seven pitchers to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics in what turned into a bullpen game thanks to a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay (see observations)

“The thing I like the most is not so much the hitting — that’s a bonus as far as I’m concerned — because he hit .240 in Triple A,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “The thing I’m most pleased about is game calling. I like the way he calls a game. You want a good defensive catcher.”

The 24-year-old Colombian, acquired from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, wasn’t called up until August. But in 21 games, he’s made an impression that puts him in the running with Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp to be the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2018. 

"To me, we’ve got three guys competing,” Mackanin said. 

Alfaro, now hitting .317, had a lot on his plate on a dreary evening. Ben Lively allowed two runs and two hits, including Matt Olson’s screeching solo homer, in three innings but didn’t return after the lengthy delay in the bottom of the third. 

But the bullpen continued to shine. Five pitchers combined to throw five hitless innings until Hector Neris (21st save) allowed a solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the ninth. It ended a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen. 

“When (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek left, everybody thought our bullpen was going to scuffle,” Mackanin said. “But they’ve been outstanding.” 

Victor Arano struck out two in two innings to get his first major league win, while Holby Milner got two outs and extended his streak of scoreless appearances to 20. It’s the longest streak for a Phillies reliever since J.C. Romero’s 35 in a row in 2007.

“I’ve had two years with the organization and I’ve had the opportunity to learn how they like to pitch,” Alfaro said of the many relievers he also caught at Triple A Lehigh Valley. “I try to make them feel comfortable.”

The Phillies got a run in the third on Ty Kelly’s double and Cesar Hernandez’s single, then tied it an inning later on J.P. Crawford’s RBI single. 

Crawford, starting at third, added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. 

Before Alfaro connected on Simon Castro (1-3), the Phillies wasted a chance in the fifth after Freddy Galvis drew a one-out walk and raced to third on Simon Castro’s wide pickoff throw. 

Nick Williams, who had his 12-game hitting streak snapped Friday, struck out on a chin-high fastball and Rhys Hoskins flew out to left. Hoskins went 0 for 3 with a walk and is 0 for 6 in the series after homering in six straight games. 

“Hoskins hasn’t looked good at the plate the past couple games," Mackanin said, "but I know one thing, that’s not what he’s going to look like. He’s a better hitter than that.” 

Alfaro has homered four times in 21 games. It gives the Phillies something to think about heading into next spring, although September performances can sometimes be deceiving. 

“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” said Mackanin, who has overseen 181 losses over the past two seasons “The test of a player’s ability is stretched out over six months and you have to take that into consideration. We’ve all heard that. You’ve got to take with a grain of salt a spring training performance as well as a September performance, but we’re getting a good idea on the quality of the at-bats we’re seeing.”