If this is the most important series that the Phillies have played since 2011 — the last time they made the playoffs — then this was their most important win since 2011.
Nick Pivetta pitched brilliantly again, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr both hit home runs and catcher Jorge Alfaro was a defensive standout as the Phillies shut out the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, 3-0, at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
The win improved the Phillies to 27-18 and pulled them within a half game of the Braves in the division. The two teams play again on Tuesday and Wednesday nights as the Phillies, who haven’t had a winning season since 2011, look to move into first place in the division.
OK. OK. OK. It’s still May and there are more than four months remaining in the season. There are many miles to go before this team establishes itself as a legitimate postseason threat or not. Nonetheless, this was a pretty nice win for the Phillies in front of 21,284.
Pivetta pitched seven shutout innings, gave up just four hits and a walk and struck out seven.
He got all the run support he needed in the fourth inning when Williams smacked an opposite-field homer to left. Williams started for the third time in four games in right field in place of Altherr. Altherr entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and crushed a two-run homer to left to make it a 3-0 game.
Seranthony Dominguez pitched a scoreless eighth inning, running his scoreless streak to seven appearances and 7 2/3 innings since debuting in the majors earlier this month.
Manager Gabe Kapler went to Hector Neris in a three-run game in the ninth and Neris picked up the save.
Though first baseman Carlos Santana was charged with his third error in as many games, the Phillies did have some defensive standouts. Third baseman Maikel Franco made a big play in the fourth. Leftfielder Rhys Hoskins made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner by Freddie Freeman to open the sixth. An inning later, in a one-run game, Alfaro gunned down Johan Camargo trying to steal second with a howitzer throw and made a nice play in front of the plate on a swinging bunt to get Dansby Swanson at first.
Alfaro ended the game with another defensive gem, gunning down Ender Inciarte on a dribbling bunt up the third-base line.
Pivetta is on a terrific roll. Featuring a power fastball and sharp slider, he has won three straight starts. He has pitched 19 innings of one-run ball over that span. He has given up 10 hits, walked two and struck out 25. Pretty impressive.
The Phillies had eight hits. Cesar Hernandez walked and singled. He has reached base safely in 25 straight games.