Pittsburgh Pirates

Phillies' 2 most surprising pitchers pave way for walk-off win

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Phillies' 2 most surprising pitchers pave way for walk-off win

The Phillies walked it off against the Pirates Sunday, winning 3-2 in 11 innings to complete a four-game sweep over a team that entered Citizens Bank Park six games over .500.

Andrew Knapp and Aaron Altherr took care of the 11th-inning heroics with a triple and a game-winning single, but it was the work of the Phillies' two most surprising pitchers which put them in position to do so.

Nick Pivetta continued the Phillies' strong run of starting pitching, allowing two runs over 6⅓ innings with seven strikeouts. He paid for his only mistake, a two-run homer by catcher Elias Diaz. The Phils had just one hit while Pivetta was in the game.

Victor Arano, who began the season by retiring 25 consecutive batters, lost his streak of perfection but more importantly weaved his way out of rallies in both the ninth and 10th innings, stranding two runners apiece.

At 14-7, the Phillies ended Sunday's game just a half-game behind the Mets and Diamondbacks for the best record in the National League.

They allowed just five runs in the four-game sweep of the Pirates.

Dominant starting pitching
The Phillies' starting rotation has been lights-out the last dozen games. Just have a look:

• 2.38 ERA
• 0.98 WHIP
• 8.0 K/9
• 1.8 BB/9
• .218 opponents' batting average
• 11 extra-base hits allowed in 12 games

Pivetta himself is on a roll, allowing a total of five runs in his last four starts. 

Including the final few weeks of 2017, Pivetta has a 2.00 ERA over his last eight outings with 47 strikeouts and 12 walks in 45 innings.

Pivetta has been especially effective the first time facing a batting order this season. His opponents have hit .167/.195/.195 the first time through with 15 strikeouts and no walks.

There are just three National League pitchers who have 14 K's and no walks the first time through a batting order and the Phillies have two of them in Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. (D-backs lefty Patrick Corbin is the other.)

Make 'em work
Offensively, the Phils couldn't muster much off Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams. They did, however, have five walks and a two-run fifth inning keyed by Pivetta's first career double and RBI. 

Through five innings, Williams had thrown 42 strikes and 41 balls. This Phils team really makes pitchers work.

Hunter debuts
Reliever Tommy Hunter made his Phillies debut after missing the first 20 games with a hamstring injury. He had a quick, impressive eighth inning, retiring the side on just eight pitches with a groundout, popout and strikeout.

Hunter was signed to a two-year, $18 million contract this offseason.

Up next
The Phillies are off Monday before beginning a three-game home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who entered Sunday tied with the Mets for the best record in the NL (14-6).

The pitching matchups for that series:

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (1-2, 3.80) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (2-0, 4.98)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.04) vs. Zack Greinke (2-1, 4,13)

Thursday: Ben Lively (0-1, 4.64) vs. Matt Koch (0-0, 1.13)

Rampaging Phillies poised to sweep Pirates thanks to Nola, Hoskins

Rampaging Phillies poised to sweep Pirates thanks to Nola, Hoskins

BOX SCORE

Here’s a ridiculously early prediction: Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins will be in Washington on July 17.

And they won’t be there to visit the Smithsonian.

They’ll be there as members of the National League All-Star team.

These two pillars of the Phillies’ rebuild led the club to a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday (see first take). Nola was brilliant on the mound. He went seven innings, allowed just two runs, walked none and struck out nine. He allowed six hits. Two never left the infield and one was a sixth-inning pop up to center field that became the latest chapter in the Adventures of Odubel Herrera and dropped in, costing Nola a run as the Pirates went ahead, 2-0.

Just when it was starting to seem as if Nola was going to be victimized by no run support, Hoskins showed up to save the day with a three-run home run to left against gas-throwing righty Michael Feliz. The bomb capped a terrific, seven-pitch at-bat in which Hoskins came back from an 0-2 count, and gave the Phils a 3-2 lead that they padded with three runs in the eighth.

Hoskins fouled off three pitches after falling behind, 0-2. Hit his a 1-2 fastball that came in at 97 mph. Through 20 games, Hoskins is hitting .328 with four homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.127 OPS. He is 8 for 17 with two doubles and two homers on counts of 1-2 or 0-2.

There ain’t any fear in this gifted, 25-year-old hitter, who, by the way, has played in just 70 big-league games.

“Wherever he is in the count, it always feels like he’s dominating the at-bat,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “So even if he is down 0-2, we’re waiting to see him get back into the count and hang in there for a pitch he can drive into the gaps or out of the ballpark.

“You need a calm to hit like that with two strikes and that’s what he displays. No situation overwhelms him. He gets down 0-2 against a guy who has nasty stuff, a big fastball, it just doesn’t seem to faze him.”

The Phillies, 13-7 and 12-3 since their 1-4 start, have beaten the Pirates three straight days and go for a sweep Sunday. They rallied for a run in the eighth to win, 2-1, Friday and rallied back from being down 2-0 in this one.

“There’s no panic,” Hoskins said. “We get into the late innings, we keep grinding.”

Hoskins explained the key to his success with two strikes.

“I think if you can control your heart rate and be comfortable in the box, good things are probably going to happen,” he said.

Being a good hitter also helps.

It seems as if Nola has been around forever, but he doesn’t turn 25 until June. He has the same calm that Hoskins does. A leadoff homer by Sean Rodriguez never fazed him. Rodriguez swung big and laid into a fastball. Nola went soft on him the rest of the day. Herrera’s mistake in center field didn’t rattle Nola either.

“There are so many pitchers who would get frustrated and then not be able to execute their pitches,” Kapler said. “It was just the opposite with Noles. He just got right back on the bump and delivered his next strike.”

Nola has not allowed more than two runs in any of his five starts this season.

A few more of those and he and Hoskins can carpool to Washington in July.

Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola pace Phillies to series win over Pirates

Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola pace Phillies to series win over Pirates

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola was pitching brilliantly. All he needed was a little help from the boys with the bats.

He got it from Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the eighth inning. Hoskins’ fourth homer of the new season was a three-run shot and it helped lift the Phils to a 6-2 win Saturday over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Phillies are 13-7 and 12-3 since starting the season 1-4. They have opened this 10-game homestand with three straight wins against the Pirates, who came into the series six games over .500 and 7-2 on the road. At 8-1, the Phillies are off to their best start at home since 1981.

Nola improved to 2-1 on the season with seven innings of two-run ball. He walked none and struck out nine.

The right-hander allowed a leadoff home run to Sean Rodriguez then would have been clean the rest of the way if it weren’t for a pop up that dropped in between centerfielder Odubel Herrera and second baseman Cesar Hernandez with two outs in the sixth. Herrera was not aggressive enough coming in for the ball and it dropped in for an RBI single as the Pirates took a 2-0 lead.

It was the second time in a less than a week that Herrera committed a boo-boo behind Nola. He made two of them, one on the bases and one in the outfield, as Nola and the Phillies suffered a 2-1 loss Monday in Atlanta.

Hoskins’ go-ahead home run came with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Carlos Santana was hit by a pitch with one out and Herrera atoned with a base hit to right, chasing Pittsburgh starter Steve Brault.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle brought in hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz to face Hoskins. The Phillies’ cleanup man took two fastballs to go down 0-2. He then fouled off two pitches, took a ball and fouled off another before hammering a 97 mph heater into the leftfield seats for a three-run homer and a lead the Phillies never relinquished.

Hoskins drove in four of the Phillies’ runs. He added an RBI single to kick off a three-run rally in the eighth. He has 19 RBIs on the season.

Nola gave up just six hits in his seven innings. Two of them were infield hits and one was the sixth-inning pop up that should have been caught. All in all, a pretty stellar effort for Nola, whose ERA is 2.30. Nola has made five starts and not allowed more than two runs in any of them. He has given up just 20 hits for the season. Seventy-five of the 103 pitches he threw Saturday were strikes.

After Nola left, Luis Garcia struck out two in eighth and Hector Neris registered a four-out save after Adam Morgan was touched for a soft infield hit. 

Notes:

• Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless inning for Double A Reading Friday night. Manager Gabe Kapler would not say what the next step would be for Hunter, but he is close to being ready to be activated. He is on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

• After the game, the Phillies sent left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner to Triple A Lehigh Valley. A corresponding move will be made Sunday and it could be activating Hunter.

• Herrera has reached base in 22 straight games, dating to last season.

• The Phillies are 6-1 in one-run games. Last year, they were 21-36 in one-run games.