Phillies

Juan Soto becoming a real pain for Phillies to deal with

Juan Soto becoming a real pain for Phillies to deal with

Nick Pivetta makes his third start of the season Wednesday night as the Phillies wrap things up with the Nationals.

The Phils face each division opponent 19 times this season, and 12 of their head-to-head matchups with the Nats come in their first 75 games.

When: 7:05 p.m. ET — Pregame Live starts at 6:30
Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and streaming live on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

Big start for Pivetta

There was plenty of hype surrounding Pivetta heading into the season. He had strong peripheral numbers last season and an even stronger showing in spring training. There were a couple starts in Clearwater when Pivetta's fastball touched 98 and 99 mph. 

Well, the spring radar guns may have been juiced. Pivetta's fastball averaged 95.4 mph in his first start but was down to 93.8 in his last start Friday against the Twins.

Pivetta has allowed 17 hits in 9⅔ innings. The Phillies scored 18 runs to win both games but they won't be able to do that consistently. There will be more than a few starts from Pivetta this season when the Phillies need him to deliver a quality start to have a good chance to win. Tonight, they could really use at least six innings from him.

Pivetta has just been missing spots. He's thrown 20 pitches middle-middle, middle-high or middle-low compared to just 10 from Zach Eflin. Few pitchers in the era of velocity can get away with a poorly located heater, especially when the pitcher's fastball speed is in the 93 mph range.

This Nationals team has hit Pivetta around in the past. Anthony Rendon is 6 for 12 with three homers and a double. Ryan Zimmerman is 5 for 9 with a homer and a double. Juan Soto is 3 for 7 with a homer and a walk.

Soto ... such a pain

Rendon and Soto are a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Rendon covers so much of the plate, possessing the ability to hit for a high average, hit 30 homers and uses both gaps. Soto is an incredibly disciplined hitter, not just for a 20-year-old but for a major-leaguer, period.

Aaron Nola has had problems getting through the 3-4 spots in the Nats' order. He won't be the only pitcher to experience those pains this season. 

Then there's Victor Robles, who is certainly too talented to stay in the nine-hole for much longer. With his hot bat there, it gives a team one more thing to worry about at the bottom of the order.

Realmuto heating up

J.T. Realmuto singled three times on Tuesday night to raise his batting line to .257/.357/.371. The power hasn't yet surfaced but the Phillies are confident it will. The hope is that Realmuto heats up while Rhys Hoskins is still seeing the ball as well as he is right now, giving the Phillies an even more potent 1 through 5.

In his customary eight-spot, Maikel Franco had another strong night at the plate Tuesday, going 2 for 5 with a 426-foot home run and a laced single up the middle off Stephen Strasburg, then a 395-foot flyout to the center field wall a few innings later. Good to see him have a quality night at the plate after going 0 for 4 with a few weak at-bats the previous night.

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

It was expected that when Scott Kingery returned from a month-long stint on the injured list with a hamstring injury, one of the Phillies’ veteran utilitymen would be the roster casualty. 

But it was Nick Williams packing his bags Sunday morning to make room on the active roster for Kingery, not Phil Gosselin or Sean Rodriguez. 

Williams was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he will get regular at-bats. He has not played much for the Phillies, starting just eight of their 45 games. As a pinch-hitter, he is 6 for 33 (.182) with one extra-base hit and 10 strikeouts. 

Williams knew when the Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper that playing time in the outfield would be hard to come by. The Phillies do not consider Williams an option in center field, so when Odubel Herrera was shelved by a hamstring strain, McCutchen shifted to center and Williams played left field. 

Kingery, in his first game back from the IL, made his first career start Sunday in center field against Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland. 

Aside from getting Williams more reps at Triple A, optioning him also prevents another team from claiming Rodriguez or Gosselin on waivers. Both are out of options and would have had to be designated for assignment before being sent to the minors. 

Gosselin is 9 for 37 (.243) on the season but has had good swings lately. Of his last 10 plate appearances, one was a rocket line drive snagged by the opposing pitcher and two were deep flyballs he just missed.

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The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

Aaron Nola had no chance at seeing where the ball landed.

Not many did, unless you were a fan leisurely strolling through the center-field concourse and enjoying the amenities of Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.

"I think it went over the stadium, from where I was sitting," Nola said. "It was a long one."

That's how powerfully Bryce Harper struck his first-inning home run in the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see observations). The ball left his bat at 114.1 miles per hour, traveled 466 feet and cleared the brick walls in center field.

It was loud and it made the sellout crowd of 42,354 fans louder.

"I think just as a fan, you just stop and watch the distance of the ball," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I don't think we saw a ball go that far to center field all year last year and certainly not this year. That's rare territory. Pretty impressive."

Harper pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela. The swing consisted of everything you want to see from Harper, who is 5 for 15 (.333) over his last four games with the homer and three doubles.

He's staying back and driving the ball.

"I think he's beginning to feel it," Kapler said. "I think part of that comes from the work he's been doing with [hitting coach] John Mallee, specifically being a little bit taller on his backside and his hands being a little bit closer to his body."

Harper didn't want to make too much about the distance of his home run. He remembered some advice from a former manager and five-time All-Star.

"Matt Williams always used to tell me, 'It's not how far, it's how many you hit,'" Harper said. "I'm just trying to go about it the right way every single day, doing things out there that help this team win. Just putting the bat to the ball and trying to win games.

Harper has eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 45 games. He has a .371 on-base percentage and is second in baseball to only Mike Trout with 34 walks.

However, he's hitting .230 and was 10 for his last 70 (.143) prior to this 5-for-15 stretch. The Phillies are seeing positive signs, though, from Harper's swing.

"We all believed he was going to break out of what he was in," Nola said. "Guy works hard, works hard at what he does. We've all seen what he's done in his career. Nobody is pressing over him, we know he's the gamer that he is and he does a lot to help the team.

On Saturday, it was a walk, a double and vicious contact on the first pitch he saw.

"I think Harp is best when he's gap to gap," Kapler said. "Every once in a while, he's out in front and pulls the ball down the line. He's at his best when he's hitting high line drives into the gaps, and the ones that he gets just underneath go into the seats or in this case, over everything in center field."

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