Everything goes right for Phillies as they beat one of baseball's best pitchers

Everything goes right for Phillies as they beat one of baseball's best pitchers


A lot of things have to go right for a bad team to snap an eight-game losing streak against a pitcher who finished in the top five of the American League Cy Young voting each of the last four seasons and might end up winning it this season.

And a lot of things did go right for the Phillies on Thursday night as they rallied for a 1-0 win over lefty Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox (see Instant Replay), salvaging one game of a home-and-home interleague series that saw the Sox win twice in Boston on walk-off hits in extra innings and take the first game in Philadelphia, 7-3, on Wednesday.

Among the pluses that the Phillies strung together in winning their first ballgame in more than a week:

• Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta looked a lot closer to the guy who dominated at Triple A than the guy who struggled with his control in his first six big-league starts. The right-hander scattered four hits over seven shutout innings and struck out nine. He walked just two, a big improvement after he'd walked 16 in his first 29 1/3 innings.

• The defense was outstanding. Second baseman Howie Kendrick and leftfielder Daniel Nava combined to save three runs behind Pivetta with big plays.

• The relief pitching was on point. Pat Neshek's 25th inning of the season — he's allowed just two runs — might have been his best as he struck out dangerous Dustin Pedroia then got Xander Bogaerts to pop out to keep the game knotted at 0-0 in the eighth. Neshek got both of those outs with a man on third.

• The Phillies only had four hits on the night, but two of them were clutch — Andrew Knapp's one-out single off Sale in the bottom of the eighth and Ty Kelly's go-ahead, pinch-hit double that scored the game's only run one batter later (see story).

• The base running was also good as Knapp sprinted 270 feet from first base to score on Kelly's double. Third base coach Juan Samuel made a good call waving Knapp aggressively when he read a poor throw from leftfielder Andrew Benintendi.

That's a lot of good stuff from a team not known for good stuff.

"Boy, that was nice to see," manager Pete Mackanin said after the game. "We played those guys tough the whole series and we could have won a couple more."

One is better than none.

The win left the Phillies at 22-43. Despite having the worst mark in the majors, Phillies players buzzed with excitement after the game.

"That's an All-Star on the mound over there," said Knapp, reminding folks what pitcher the Phillies beat. "Going punch for punch with him gives us a lot of confidence. It's a pretty sweet win."

Sale struck out 10.

Pivetta had four 1-2-3 innings. He issued both of his walks in the second inning when things could have fallen apart for him if it weren't for Kendrick's tremendous diving play on a bases-loaded ball up the middle.

"Huge play," said the grateful Pivetta. "If that ball gets through, we're behind one or two runs and that's really hard against a guy like Sale. Just phenomenal. And Nava's play, too."

Nava gunned down a potential run at the plate in the fifth.

The game turned in the eighth, first with Neshek's work — he allowed a leadoff double and pitched out of trouble — then with the two improbable offensive heroes, Knapp and Kelly.

Knapp broke his bat on his single to left against Sale. That was a good thing because it allowed the ball to die in front of leftfielder Benintendi. Kelly's go-ahead double came on a breaking ball. He lined it into the left-field corner. Two nights earlier in Boston, Samuel had the potential tiebreaking run snuffed out at the plate on a throw from Benintendi. That was also in the eighth inning. This time, Samuel found redemption. It helped that Benintendi missed the cutoff man.

"Same kind of situation, exactly," Samuel said. "As you know, we're not scoring a lot of runs and we're not winning a whole lot of games. So in a situation like that you have to push the envelope a little bit.

"I was reading the throw and once I saw him overthrow the cutoff man, that had something to do with the decision also. But at the same time, we're facing Chris Sale. How many runs are we going to get? So you have to take some chances."

Is this the win that finally gets the Phillies going?

Who knows? Really, at this point it's reasonable to wonder if they are even capable of getting going. They put up a modest four-game win streak early last week then proceeded to lose eight in a row.

So maybe the thing to do is just enjoy this one, hope that Pivetta's outing was a sign of real growth, and get ready to play the Arizona Diamondbacks as they come in for the weekend.

Orioles reportedly trade Manny Machado to Dodgers; here's what it means for Phillies

Orioles reportedly trade Manny Machado to Dodgers; here's what it means for Phillies

No Manny Machado for the Phillies ... this time.

The Dodgers beat the Phillies' offer — at least in the eyes of the Orioles, which is all that matters. L.A. traded top prospect Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop, Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera to Baltimore for Machado, a free agent at season's end, according to a report Wednesday by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

Diaz is a 21-year-old right-handed outfielder with power and plate selection the Dodgers signed out of Cuba for $15.5 million in 2015. 

The Phillies went after the former Orioles superstar aggressively and were willing to part with well-regarded prospects including right-hander Adonis Medina, but in the end, the win-now Dodgers were more willing to overpay for the best available player.

This does not, however, close the book on Machado eventually signing a long-term contract with the Phillies. Corey Seager is the Dodgers' franchise shortstop. He's out for the season with an elbow injury, which is why L.A. made this move. It makes sense for the Dodgers to overpay, it makes sense for them to go all-in given their sky-high payroll, with where they are in their window of contention and with how last October went.

We know that Machado wants to play shortstop. It's a big deal to him and it's where he feels most comfortable. He said this week in D.C. that money isn't the only factor for him this winter, that happiness is most important. If he gets similar offers and one of the teams is willing to let him play shortstop, that could make all the difference.

The Phillies will still pursue Machado this winter. Right now, however, their focus will shift to other available players on the trade market. There are still some nice players out there who could boost the left side of the Phillies' infield, their rotation or bullpen.

Check out the Phils' other options here. The Blue Jays, Royals, and even the Orioles still match up well in a trade. 

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola vs. Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout. Welcome to the All-Star Game.

Nola made his ASG debut Tuesday night in D.C., pitching the top of the fifth inning with the National League trailing 2-1.

He opened the frame by striking out Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a low-and-away curveball well off the plate.

Next up was Betts, the AL MVP favorite. On a 3-2 count, Nola struck Betts out swinging on a high-and-tight 96 mph fastball.

The next batter, 2017 AL MVP Altuve, singled to right-center on the first pitch. 

And that brought up Trout, who had homered in his previous at-bat against Jacob deGrom. 

Trout had no such luck against Nola, popping up to first base in foul territory on the third pitch he saw.

Nola threw 15 pitches, 10 strikes. 

This was a pretty cool moment for Nola, facing arguably the three best hitters in baseball and retiring two of them. Looked like he belonged.

He made some new friends, too. Here's Nola planning an offseason sleepover with Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.

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