A lot of good things happened Wednesday night for the Phillies, more than enough to overcome Hector Neris’ first blown save since last June.
The Phils beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, in 12 innings (see first take) to complete a three-game sweep and a pretty spiffy 5-1 homestand (OK, they didn’t beat the ’27 Yankees, but you can only play the team that the schedule-maker sends your way) on the strength of:
• Scott Kingery’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the 12th and run-saving throw from left field in the sixth inning.
• Odubel Herrera’s homer-robbing catch on a Scooter Gennett drive to center in the 10th inning.
• Cesar Hernandez’s two-out solo homer in the fifth inning.
• J.P. Crawford’s two-run homer in the first inning and sacrifice bunt to set up the winning run in the 12th.
While these were all highlights, perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the win — maybe the entire homestand, for that matter — was the pitching of Nick Pivetta. The 25-year-old British Columbian made two starts during the homestand and allowed just nine hits and two runs over 12 2/3 innings. He walked zero and struck out 16 over that span.
No one is pronouncing Pivetta as arrived, but the Phillies might have a pretty good starter blooming here.
“The concentration level is different than it's been in the past,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Pivetta, who joined the Phillies in July 2015 when Jonathan Papelbon was traded to Washington. “The intensity level is different than it's been in the past. He's been able to maintain it throughout longer stretches. He worked diligently in spring training to attack with fastballs up in the zone and to use his curveball to play off of that. We're seeing him mix and match with his curveball and his slider effectively and appropriately. Those are two things that are really coming together. Being able to land your secondary pitches for strikes is not the easiest thing to do for a young pitcher, and he's doing it consistently.”
Injuries forced the Phils to push Pivetta to the majors last season and he went 8-10 with a 6.02 ERA in 26 starts. That’s not pretty, but the experience he gained was invaluable and now it’s paying dividends.
“My number one thing is you’ve got to learn from your failures and I feel like right now — I still have a lot to learn — but I went through a lot last year and this year I can kind of handle certain situations and minimize damage," he said.
“I learned from my mistakes last year. I worked hard with [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and everybody not trying to be so perfect in the strike zone. I think that really has carried over this year and it's been good so far.”
Pivetta allowed just two runs over seven innings and struck out seven. Kapler trusted him to go back to the mound at 92 pitches for the seventh inning and the right-hander responded with a quick, 11-pitch inning. He was on his way to a win before Neris blew a one-run lead in the ninth. Yacksel Rios ended up getting the win in relief. Pivetta had to settle for covering a few more miles on the road to becoming a good major-league starter.