Phillies

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

BOX SCORE

The 1961 Phillies are safe.

They remain the last Phillies team to reach triple-digit losses.

The 2017 Phillies avoided the ignominy of 100 losses as they rode a pair of big hits by Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp and the excellent bullpen work of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris to a 4-1 win over the National League East champion Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see observations).

Manager Pete Mackanin had recently downplayed avoiding 100 losses as a goal. His focus has been simply on seeing improvement from his young, rebuilding club.

But win No. 63 made Mackanin pretty happy.

"When I said 100 losses didn't matter — I lied," Mackanin said with a laugh. "I admit it. Great win."

The 1961 Phillies, under second-year skipper Gene Mauch, went 47-107.

Rupp had the game's biggest hit, a bullet of a two-run double over the centerfielder's head in the bottom of the third inning. It gave the Phillies and starter Jake Thompson a 3-1 lead. Rhys Hoskins padded the lead with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and the aforementioned quartet of relievers registered nine of 12 outs via the strikeout to close it out.

Rupp was around two years ago when the 2015 Phillies lost 99 games. With four more games left before it's time to go home for the winter, Rupp hopes Tuesday night's win is not this team's last.

"I've already lost 99 one time," said the catcher, who turns 29 on Thursday. "Let's win a couple more."

Not long ago, the Phillies were on a clear path to triple-digit losses. An influx of young talent, led by Hoskins and Nick Williams, and much improved bullpen work have helped the Phillies go 34-37 after the All-Star break, a major improvement after they were 29 games under .500 before the break.

"It's one of those things we know," Rupp said of the specter of 100 losses. "But we come out every day and try to let the results show. There's been a lot of games that we've been right in and the ball hasn't rolled our way, a lot of one-run and two-run losses. One big hit here and there and we flip our record in one-run games. It's not that we’re far away. We've got the players here. We just have to get that big hit."

The Phillies are 21-36 in one-run games.

Rupp's double in the third inning came against Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who did not pitch up to his 2.68 ERA, which was third best in the NL entering the game. Mackanin said he started Rupp because he had good numbers against the lefty Gonzalez — five hits, including two doubles, in 14 career at-bats.

The Phillies played good defense in this game, particularly J.P. Crawford at third base. He started a big double play behind Thompson in the first inning and later made a diving snare of a 108-mph liner off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. But nothing made Mackanin happier than seeing Joseph and Rupp get their big hits in the third inning.

Joseph and Rupp have lost playing time in recent weeks as management looks at young players. It's unclear where both players fit into the team's future. It's possible both could be with other clubs next season.

But right now, they are Phillies, and their heads are high.

"I was very happy for both of those guys," Mackanin said. "The way they've handled the whole situation — it's a testament to their professionalism."

Rupp has lost time to rookie Jorge Alfaro in recent weeks. Joseph has lost it to Hoskins.

"It's one of those things where when I get my chance, I've got to perform," Rupp said. "It doesn't matter the situation. It doesn't matter who's in there. You get your chance, you need to show them what you can do. It's the situation that we're in. It's no secret when we get our chance, we have to perform."

Rupp and Joseph got their chance Tuesday night.

They performed.

The 1961 Phillies are safe for at least another year.

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

BOX SCORE

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.

The Phillies have something special in Seranthony Dominguez

The Phillies have something special in Seranthony Dominguez

BOX SCORE 

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.