Phillies

Scott Kingery grinds through a tough month, comes up big in Phillies' win

Scott Kingery grinds through a tough month, comes up big in Phillies' win

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ST. LOUIS — The Phillies needed a big hit.

Scott Kingery needed a big hit.

Win-win.

Kingery’s RBI triple with two outs in the eighth inning was one of the big hits in the Phillies’ 7-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday (see first take). The triple tied the game. Jorge Alfaro followed with a pinch-hit single to put the Phils ahead. All of the damage came against St. Louis right-hander Greg Holland after Nick Williams worked a huge, two-out walk.

Seranthony Dominguez knew just what to do with the lead (see story) and the Phillies found themselves in position to take over first place in the NL East pending the outcome of the Miami-Atlanta game Saturday night. Atlanta's 8-1 win put the Phillies a half-game behind the Braves. 

Kingery’s clutch hit came a half-inning after he made a throwing error at third base that contributed to the Cardinals taking the lead. The error was the latest difficult moment for the rookie, who arrived in the majors with huge expectations after signing a six-year, $24 million contract in spring training. Kingery got off to a nice start when the fastballs were coming, but over the past month he’d tailed off. He entered Saturday hitting just .218 with a .599 OPS. Over his previous 25 games, he was hitting just .176 with a .427 OPS and just one extra-base hit. He’d racked up 23 strikeouts and walked just four times.

So the triple, on a 1-2 slider, felt good for a lot of reasons. For both Kingery and the team.

“I’m really happy for Kingery,” manager Gabe Kapler said “He showed a tremendous amount of mental toughness. Obviously, he had the error and then he came back and had a big, big hit for us. One of the things that we’ve stressed all along for Scotty is how he’s not phased by big moments, he’s not phased by pressure, and he’s clearly not phased by struggling. That’s why we have so much confidence in him.”

Kingery has mentioned that he has a history of chasing breaking balls in the dirt when he struggles. Big-league scouts and pitchers have figured that out quickly.

“It’s obviously been a struggle (for the last month),” Kingery said. “It’s been a little bit of everything. Because my swing was off, it didn’t feel right and then that was pushing me to swing at bad pitches trying to get ahead early in the count. I was taking fastballs down the middle. It’s been a mixture of everything, figuring out the ways big-league pitching is going to come after me and the ways they’re going to throw me. So it’s kind of been back and forth and I’ve been trying to grind it out and figure out a way to adjust back to it.

“I’m feeling good. I feel like I’m getting better every day. That big hit definitely helps. Obviously, I’m just happy we could get a win.”

The Phillies blew leads of 3-0 and 5-3 earlier in the game.

They didn’t blow the one that Williams, Kingery and Alfaro helped them get in the eighth inning.

“I think it was just a great all-around team effort to be able to go up 2-1 in the series and have a chance to get that series win tomorrow. That’s big for us,” Kingery said.

Aaron Nola gets the ball in the series finale Sunday.

Phillies have something special in Seranthony Dominguez

Phillies have something special in Seranthony Dominguez

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ST. LOUIS — A year ago, Seranthony Dominguez was showing off a blazing fastball and a hard, sharp slider as a starting pitcher for Clearwater of the Florida State League.

Phillies officials watched that power combination all season and decided Dominguez’s best and quickest route to the majors would be as a reliever. The conversion was made in spring training. At first, the 23-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic was skeptical of the move — after all, who grows up dreaming of being a reliever? — but now he’s loving it.

“Any pitcher wants to be a starter,” Dominguez said. “But I thought about it and decided I’m going to put it in God’s hands and if that’s what he wants me to do and that’s what the coaches want me to do, I’m going to do it because I’m here, really, to help the team win. I’m here for them.”

Dominguez was there for the Phillies in a big way on Saturday. He brought some sanity to a rather crazy and occasionally sloppy game — the Phils blew leads of 3-0 and 5-3 — by pitching the final two innings to lock down a 7-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium (see first take).

Dominguez hit 98 mph on the radar gun in notching his first big-league save. Two of his six outs were strikeouts. Called up from Triple A on May 7, Dominguez has begun his big-league career with six scoreless appearances. He has not allowed a hit or a walk. He has struck out seven.

The Phillies have something special in the kid who signed for $25,000 in October 2011.

“He’s a strike thrower and that’s a really good profile for a reliever who throws 97 to 99,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I throw 97 to 99 (mph), plus I throw strikes, plus I can land my secondary pitch for a strike, and by the way, that’s kind of nasty, too. Oh, and my fastball has cut and sometimes sink. Those are all characteristics that make us feel that Seranthony is special.”

Phillies officials were thinking future closer when they converted Dominguez to the bullpen. But this soon? In the big leagues? Oh, wait, Kapler is loath to assign roles in the bullpen, never mind dub someone the closer. Just get outs when you’re called upon.

Getting six of them wasn’t easy.

“We were looking to get a little length from Seranthony since he came to the big leagues for us,” Kapler said. “It’s something that we’ve been considering and we will continue to consider. It won’t always be that way. We won’t always use him for two or two-plus, but there will be stretches that we do use him like that. One of the things that’s nice about him is that he has a history of starting games and he can give us a little more length. He’s tough and his arm bounces back well. All of those things in aggregate give us confidence that he’s capable of taking down two and two-plus. He was electric today.”

Scott Kingery was one of the Phillies' heroes (see story). He stroked a game-tying, two-out triple in the eighth, setting up Jorge Alfaro for the go-ahead RBI single, then enjoyed watching as Dominguez locked things down.

“I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a 98-mph cutter, to be honest,” Kingery said with a laugh.

“In a lot of ways, that felt like the biggest win of the year,” Kapler said.

The Phils are 26-17 and just a half-game behind the Braves for first place in the NL East. 

Dominguez threw his arms in the air when Odubel Herrera, whose on-base streak climbed to 45 games with a two-run homer, chased down the final out. The pitcher was thrilled to notch his first big-league save.

It made you wonder where he’d be if he was still a starting pitcher.

“In Double A,” he said with a laugh.

Rookies Kingery, Alfaro, Dominguez clutch in Phillies win over Cardinals

Rookies Kingery, Alfaro, Dominguez clutch in Phillies win over Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Three rookies helped the Phillies overcome some sloppy defense and beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6, at Busch Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Rookie Scott Kingery tied the game with a triple in the eighth and rookie Jorge Alfaro followed with a pinch-hit single to give the Phillies the lead.

Both hits came with two outs against Greg Holland after Nick Williams worked Holland for a two-out walk.

Rookie reliever Seranthony Dominguez protected the one-run lead and got the final six outs for the first save of his career. He featured a fastball that hit 98 mph on the stadium radar gun.

Dominguez has not allowed a hit or a walk in his first six appearances (6 2/3 innings). He has registered seven strikeouts. 

The Phillies squandered leads of 3-0 and 5-3 earlier in the game. First baseman Carlos Santana made a costly throwing error in the Cardinals’ three-run fourth. Kingery made an error at third base in the bottom of the seventh. The Phils also made three errors in Friday night’s 12-4 loss.

Kingery has struggled since his hot start. The game-tying triple was his first extra-base hit in May and just his second in the last 26 games. It was a big one, however.

The Phillies are 26-17. They have not lost two in a row this month.

Starter Zach Eflin came out of the gate firing. He retired the first nine batters he faced on just 32 pitches. Four of the nine outs were strikeouts as the right-hander showed a fastball up to 97 mph.

The Phils had given Eflin a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the first inning and they upped the advantage to 3-0 when Odubel Herrera made it 45 straight games on base with a two-run homer against Cardinals’ right-hander John Gant in the third.

Eflin’s defense betrayed him in the fourth inning as the Cardinals tied the game on three runs, two unearned, after first baseman  Santana threw away a potential inning-ending double play.

The Cardinals did the same thing in the fifth inning — shortstop Jedd Gyorko threw away a potential double-play ball — as the Phils went back up by two runs.

St. Louis tied the game at 5-5 with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

Eflin left with a one-run lead when the game was delayed 44 minutes by rain with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Luis Garcia served up a solo homer (on a 98 mph fastball) to rookie Tyler O’Neill as the Cardinals tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. The Cardinals took the lead in the seventh when Tommy Hunter allowed an infield hit and a double.

Williams, Kingery and Alfaro teamed up to put the Phils back in front for good in the eighth.

Notes
• Alfaro was scratched from the original starting lineup after testing his right knee three hours before the game. Alfaro twisted the knee retrieving a wild pitch in Friday night’s game. He said he was fine and could have started, but the team decided to err on the side of caution. Alfaro said he expected to catch on Sunday when Aaron Nola pitches.

• A nasty rainstorm kicked up with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and the game was delayed for 44 minutes. It was still dry when umpires called for the tarp. That did not sit well with manager Gabe Kapler. He gave crew chief Larry Vanover an earful. But the umpires got it right. The skies opened into a deluge less than two minutes after the tarp was called for.