ST. LOUIS — The Phillies needed a big hit.
Scott Kingery needed a big hit.
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.