Phillies end road trip with loss to Braves

Phillies end road trip with loss to Braves

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ATLANTA — Ryan Flaherty spent spring training with the Phillies on a minor-league contract. He hit .351 with three doubles, a homer and eight RBIs. He played in the infield and the outfield. Flaherty did enough to win a spot on the Phillies’ opening day roster, but was a victim of a numbers crunch so the team granted him his release in the final week of camp. 

In need of some help at third base after Johan Camargo went down with an oblique injury, the Braves signed Flaherty to a big-league deal and installed him as their opening day third baseman.

All Flaherty has done since joining the Braves is hit. He entered Wednesday hitting .354, fifth best in the majors and .130 points better than his career average. He’s been especially tough on the Phillies. He swatted a three-run home run Wednesday night and the Phillies never recovered in a 7-3 loss at SunTrust Park. Flaherty also had an RBI single in the game.

In six games against the Phillies this season, Flaherty has 11 hits, including three doubles and a homer. Despite Flaherty’s strong start, the Braves appear to be making other plans at third base. Camargo came off the disabled list on Wednesday and the team also signed veteran Jose Bautista with the intention of looking at him at third base when he’s ready to go.

Flaherty’s three-run home run came against Vince Velasquez in the fifth inning.

Velasquez had helped himself with an RBI single in the top of the fifth to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. But the right-hander let the lead get away quickly when he allowed a leadoff walk, a single and Flaherty’s three-run homer all with no outs in the bottom of the inning.

Flaherty hit a first-pitch fastball that registered 94 mph.

Those were the only runs that Velasquez allowed in six innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one. That walk became a run.

Braves starter Brandon McCarthy held the Phillies to one run over 5 1/3 innings.

The Phillies ended up losing two out of three in the series and are 2-4 against the Braves on the season. The Phils did not do a lot of scoring in this series. They lost the opener, 2-1. They won the second game, 5-1, but scored four of their runs in the 10th inning. They scored just three runs in the finale.

They probably would have had one more run if it weren’t for Ender Inciarte. The Braves’ defensive whiz centerfielder rose above the wall in left-center to steal a home run away from Scott Kingery in the first inning. Inciarte, like Flaherty, was once Phillies property, a former Rule 5 pick that the club chose not to keep around.

Phillies demolish Rays for rare AL East sweep

Phillies demolish Rays for rare AL East sweep

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — First with his glove and then with his bat, Aaron Altherr came up huge in helping the sizzling Phillies stay hot with a 10-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon.

Altherr saved two runs with a diving catch in right field to end the sixth inning. Had he not caught Denard Span's first-pitch scorcher against reliever Luis Garcia, the Rays would have tied the game and who knows what would have happened the rest of the way.

Instead, the Phillies carried a two-run lead into the seventh inning then extended it to seven on the strength of a five-run eighth inning. Altherr highlighted that uprising with a three-run home run.

Altherr had been off to a frigid start — 2 for 34 — before the home run.

Altherr's offense and defense helped the Phillies sweep the Rays. It was the Phils' second straight series sweep and first in a three-game series against an American League East team since they swept Baltimore in June 2003. The Phils took three from Cincinnati last week and head to Atlanta for three Monday.

With six wins in a row, the Phils are now 9-5. That's their best start since 2011, the last year they made the postseason.

The Rays are 3-12.

Ben Lively did not have a good start. He lasted just four innings, gave up seven hits and three runs. He allowed two runs in the first on a solo homer by Span and an RBI triple by Mallex Smith.

The Phillies' offense came alive against Tampa Bay lefty Ryan Yarbrough in the third inning. The Phils scored four runs in the frame, three of which were unearned after an error by shortstop Daniel Robertson. Rookie Scott Kingery had the big hit in the inning, a three-run double with two outs. Kingery hit an 0-2 fastball over the centerfielder's head to clear the bases. Seven of Kingery's 14 hits are doubles and he has 12 RBIs in his first 13 big-league games.

In addition to Kingery and Altherr, the bullpen came up huge for the Phillies. It picked up five innings after Lively left and allowed just an unearned run.

The stickiest spot came in the sixth when the Rays, trailing by two runs, had runners on second and third with two outs and the lefty-hitting Span at the plate. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called for the right-hander Garcia, but he did not exactly fool Span. The Rays' leadoff man smoked a first-pitch liner to right. Altherr was well positioned. He took a few steps forward and made a diving catch, saving two runs.

• The Phils move on to Atlanta for three games beginning Monday night. Pitching matchups:

Monday night — RHP Aaron Nola (1-0, 1.96) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (0-1, 7.07)

Tuesday night — RHP Nick Pivetta (1-0, 2.70) vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-1, 2.93)

Wednesday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (1-1, 3.52) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 3.31)

Phillies' bats explode in Tampa for 5th straight win

Phillies' bats explode in Tampa for 5th straight win

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Phillies’ winning streak stands at five and they are poised for a second straight series sweep.

The Phils, on the strength of a six-run second inning, rolled over the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-4, at Tropicana Field on Saturday night.

Jake Arrieta was the beneficiary of all that run support and earned his first win with the Phillies. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and three runs in his second start with his new club. One of the runs was unearned. The right-hander walked two, struck out one and finished with 88 pitches. Arrieta was particularly economical in the first two innings, throwing just eight pitches in each.

Phillies starting pitchers have recorded a stingy 2.69 ERA over the last 10 games.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer was anything but economical early in the game. He needed 55 pitches to get through the first two innings. Archer was ambushed for six runs in the inning and eight in all during four innings of work. He is 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA after four starts this season.

J.P. Crawford was particularly tough on Archer. Hitting in the No. 9 spot, Crawford stroked an RBI double in the second inning and a leadoff homer in the fourth against Archer. The double came on a 2-2 slider; the homer on a 1-2 slider. Archer, obviously, thought he could put away Crawford with that pitch but the rookie shortstop thwarted that idea.

The Phils sent 10 men to the plate in the second inning. Crawford, Nick Williams and Scott Kingery all had doubles in the inning. Crawford’s and Kingery’s drove in runs. Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana and Odubel Herrera all drove in runs with singles in the inning. Kingery added a second RBI double in the fifth inning.

The Phillies are 8-5. They have won seven of their last eight games against Miami, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, three of the worst teams in baseball. Those three clubs entered play Saturday with a combined eight wins and rank in the bottom six in the majors in OPS.

But the Phillies are doing what you're supposed to do to bad teams — beat them.

Some notes:

• Right-handed reliever Victor Arano struck out three of the four batters he faced. He has retired all 16 batters he has faced this season, half on strikeouts.

• Catcher Andrew Knapp, out of the lineup since Tuesday because of a stomach bug, is expected to start Sunday’s series finale. Ben Lively will start for the Phillies.

• Reliever Tommy Hunter, on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, pitched an inning in an extended spring training game Saturday morning in Clearwater. He believes he is ready to go. The team is expected to err on the side of caution and give him one more tune-up before activating him next week.

• Jerad Eickhoff, on the DL with a lat strain, threw lightly off a bullpen mound. He said he feels much better. He needs a full build-up and won’t ready until sometime in May.