Cesar Hernandez

Nick Pivetta, bottom of Phillies' order bounce back to beat Orioles

Nick Pivetta, bottom of Phillies' order bounce back to beat Orioles

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BALTIMORE — The first-place Phillies dominated the comically bad Orioles for most of the night Thursday before holding on to survive a 5-4 win.

The Phils had 14 hits and put 16 men on base in the first seven innings.

This was a quick stop in Baltimore to make up the game that was postponed on May 15 following a three-hour rain delay.

The Phillies had no issue with Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman, who had a 3.13 ERA in his last six starts and is the only pitcher in Baltimore's rotation having even an OK season. They pounded him for five runs on 12 hits over five innings.

The bottom of the order, in particular, thrived in this game. Scott Kingery and Jorge Alfaro each went 3 for 4.

It was Alfaro's best game of the season. He doubled in two runs with a fly ball over the leftfielder's head in the fourth inning, then homered to center in the sixth. In the AL park, Alfaro batted ninth.

In all, the Phillies' 7-9 hitters reached base in seven of 12 plate appearances.

The Phillies improved to 52-40, a half-game better than the Braves in the NL East. The Orioles are 26-68 and on pace to lose 118 games.

Alfaro's big night
This was, without question, Alfaro's best offensive night of the year. It was on brand, too, with him swinging early and often.

Alfaro's single and homer both came on the first pitch. There is no player in Major League Baseball this season who has swung at a higher percentage of pitches than Alfaro. 

Surrounded by players with good eyes like Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins, one wonders if Alfaro could someday develop even a little more selectivity. It's never been his M.O., here at the major-league level or at any stop in the minors.

"You can set aside plate discipline if you're really accurate with the barrel," manager Gabe Kapler said after the win. "The one thing we know for sure is that Alfie can hit the ball hard. When he puts the ball in play, he smokes it. So if we see a little bit more contact, I think he's a productive offensive player. At times, in stretches this season, he's not just been productive but he's helped us win baseball games with his bat. We know it's in there."

Pivetta bounces back
After pitching more than five innings just once in his last nine starts and posting a 6.63 ERA over that span, Nick Pivetta took the Phillies into the seventh in this one.

He allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts over 6⅔ innings. Pivetta was one out away from finishing seven innings when Trey Mancini got him for a two-run homer.

This was an important start for Pivetta, who lately had been the weakest link in the Phillies' rotation. He needs to continue pitching well with Enyel De Los Santos on his heels as well as the (thin) possibility of a trade for a starting pitcher this month.

"We really needed this from Nick," Kapler said. "Staying composed when things don't go exactly his way. Not only did he stay composed in those moments but it's like he elevated his game, made better pitches, had more life on his fastball through the zone."

In 19 starts, Pivetta is 6-7 with a 4.58 ERA. He's struck out 113 and walked 30 in 96 1/3 innings.

Kingery coming on
Kingery has three three-hit games in his last 13 after having none in his first 75.

He's hit .306 over his last nine games and .271 over the last calendar month.

He's still not where he wants to be, and he's still chasing pitches at a high rate, but this represents at least some progress for the rookie shortstop.

Kingery did also commit his ninth error of the season on a throw to Hernandez trying to begin a double play. He made a nice play ranging to his right on a Mark Trumbo groundball but just tried to be too speedy instead of making sure he got one out.

The Phillies actually made two errors in that second inning but Pivetta stranded both. 

"Our defense in that second inning kind of let us down," said Kapler, who usually avoids making such comments. "And in those moments, Nick stepped up. He didn't carry one pitch or one play over to the next. Rather, he continued to step on it."

Too close for comfort
Tommy Hunter allowed a solo home run to Jace Peterson on the very first pitch he threw. Over his last 11 innings, Hunter has allowed eight runs, two homers and 20 base runners. His opponents have hit .348.

On the season, Hunter has a 4.80 ERA and has allowed at least one run in 12 of his 35 appearances.

Fortunately for the Phillies, Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez combined for a scoreless eighth and ninth to preserve the one-run lead.

Dominguez pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 10 chances.

Up next
The Phillies will be in their third city in as many days Friday when they open a three-game series in Miami.

Friday at 7:10 — Jake Arrieta (6-6, 3.47) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-6, 6.14)

Saturday at 4:10 — Aaron Nola (12-2, 2.27) vs. Trevor Richards (2-5, 5.24)

Sunday at 1:10 — Zach Eflin (7-2, 3.15) vs. Jose Ureña (2-9, 4.13).

More on the Phillies

A June to forget for Jake Arrieta and the (lack of) defense behind him

A June to forget for Jake Arrieta and the (lack of) defense behind him

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Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the New York Yankees put on a jaw-dropping power display in batting practice Tuesday night. It was so impressive that they were cheered — loudly — when batting practice ended by the many fans who had made the trip to Philadelphia to support them.

Three pitches into the game, the cheering started again when Aaron Hicks crushed a Jake Arrieta fastball over the center-field wall.

Ballgame. 

The Phillies were dominated for the second night in a row in a 6-0 loss to the Yankees, who lead the American League East at 52-25 (see first take). The Phillies are 41-36 in the National League East.

Arrieta had a tough time locating his fastball with precision and he was hurt once again by his defense as an error by second baseman Cesar Hernandez led to three unearned runs in the third inning.

Earlier this month, Arrieta called out the defense after a loss in San Francisco.

This time, he was a little more philosophical.

“We didn’t score any runs so pretty much after the third pitch of the game, that was pretty much it,” he said. “You obviously don’t know that that’s going to be the case until the game plays out.”

Hernandez’s error — the Phillies’ 57th of the season, third most in the NL — came on a tailor-made double-play ball that would have ended the top of the third. Arrieta struck out Stanton for the second out then allowed two straight two-out hits.

“It was unfortunate, but I gave up nine hits and had an opportunity, even after the error,” Arrieta said. “Punch out Stanton and then base hit. Don’t give up the base hit and if it’s a tighter game going into the fifth or sixth inning, it might be a different outcome. That's my job to keep it as close as we can.” 

A month ago, Arrieta walked out of Dodger Stadium looking like the $75 million ace the Phillies hoped they were getting when they signed him over the winter. He went 2-1 in five starts in May and recorded an 0.90 ERA after giving up just three earned runs in 30 innings.

June was a different story. Arrieta went 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts. He gave up 32 hits, including seven home runs, in 25 2/3 innings. He allowed 27 runs, 19 of which were earned.

While Arrieta clearly was not sharp during the month, there was another factor in his struggles. The Phillies did not play sound defense behind him as the eight unearned runs attest. Shortstop Scott Kingery had a tough game behind Arrieta in a loss at Milwaukee. And then there was Hernandez in this one.

“Obviously, the stuff is there,” said Andrew Knapp, who caught Arrieta on Tuesday night. “Just kind of lacking a little bit of sharpness going into some hitters. I don't know if it's mechanical or just bad luck. I mean, we have to play better defense behind him. That's just a fact. He got a couple ground balls today that would have helped us. But, I mean, I'm not exactly sure what's going to get him over the hump. I know it's not a lack of effort.”

The month of June started with Arrieta publicly singling out Kingery for poor defense in San Francisco. Arrieta said the team needed to be more accountable after that loss. Since then, he is 0-3 with a 6.40 ERA in four starts. 

While Arrieta has backed off his criticism of the team’s defense, his words still resonate to the point where one has to wonder if the defense plays a little tight behind him.

Manager Gabe Kapler scoffed at that notion.

“I don't see Scott and Cesar as playing anything but loose behind all of our pitchers,” Kapler said. “In fact, I think we've seen that consistently with Scott, and Cesar has been solid on defense all season long. One moment does not make a man.”

Kapler did acknowledge that it wasn’t easy for a pitcher to overcome an error like the one Hernandez made.

“There’s no question,” he said. “I think it’s always difficult when you get a ground ball and we’re not able to make a play behind it. At the same time, Jake is Jake for a reason — because he’s able to weather those kinds of storms. That’s why he’s so important to us because he’s able to come back from those situations and get big outs. I have 100 percent confidence that the next time out he’s going to be the Jake that we believe in and depend on. It’s part of baseball. Guys make errors and you have to get ready for the next pitch and the next game.”

Against the powerhouse Yankees, there isn’t room for poor defense. There especially wasn’t with the way 24-year-old right-hander Luis Severino was pitching Tuesday night. He delivered seven innings of shutout ball, walked none and struck out nine for his majors-leading 12th win. His fastball averaged 98 mph and reached 100 mph.

“He was as dirty as possibly could be,” Kapler said. “He had a lot of life on the fastball. It was difficult to catch up to. The hitters knew it was going to be on top of them. He just had a little extra life today and sometime you just have to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher.”

Two nights in a row the Phillies have had to do that. Rookie Jonathan Loaisiga manhandled them on Monday night. The Phils have been outscored, 10-2, in two nights. They have just nine hits in the first two games of the series and have racked up 25 strikeouts.

“Dropping two in a row to these guys is tough, but they flat out beat us,” Arrieta said. “We’ll look to return the favor [Wednesday].”

More on the Phillies

Oh my ... Stanton crushes unprecedented HR in BP

•​ It shouldn’t take the Yankees to fill up CBP

•​ Neris returns sooner than expected; Neshek close

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•​ Report linking Padres to Franco seems like no coincidence

Phillies can't touch Luis Severino, Yankees in shutout

Phillies can't touch Luis Severino, Yankees in shutout

BOX SCORE

If this is indeed some measuring-stick series for the Phillies then it’s clear they have a long way to go.

The Phils were outclassed for the second night in a row in a 6-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.

Once again, Yankees fans overpowered Phillies fans in the sellout crowd of 43,568 and the Yankees gave their faithful a lot to shout about, most notably Luis Severino’s dominant starting pitching performance.

Severino won his majors-best 12th game with seven shutout innings. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out nine. He featured mostly a four-seam fastball. The pitch averaged 98.6 mph and hit 100 mph several times, including in an eight-pitch fourth inning.

Meanwhile, Phillies starter Jake Arrieta did not have a good night against the 52-win Yankees, leaders of the American League East. The right-hander lasted just five innings and gave up nine hits, including two homers, and six runs.

Once again, Arrieta was the victim of poor infield defense. Three of the runs he allowed were unearned after second baseman Cesar Hernandez muffed what would have been a double play to get Arrieta out of the top of third inning.

After Hernandez’s error, Arrieta got the second out of the frame. He could not get the third before giving up a hard-hit two-run single to Gleyber Torres and an RBI hit to Greg Bird. 

Arrieta gave up single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings. Two of those runs came on solo homers.

After a tremendous month of May, Arrieta had a miserable month of June. He went 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts. He gave up 32 hits, including seven home runs, in 25 2/3 innings. He allowed 27 runs, 19 of which were earned. The eight unearned runs show just how poor the defense was behind him.

In May, Arrieta went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in five starts. He gave up just three earned runs in 30 innings.

Phillies hitters have mustered just nine hits against Yankees pitching in two nights and they have struck out 25 times. They are 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position in the series, which wraps up Wednesday night.

The Phils are now 41-36.

Notes
• The Phillies have made 57 errors. Only San Francisco and St. Louis had made more in the National League entering the game.

• Pat Neshek, working his way back from shoulder and forearm injuries, gave up two hits and a run in an inning of work for Double A Reading on Tuesday night.

More on the Phillies

Oh my ... Stanton crushes unprecedented HR in BP

•​ It shouldn’t take the Yankees to fill up CBP

•​ Neris returns sooner than expected; Neshek close

•​ Phillies and Rangers match up very nicely for a big trade

•​ Report linking Padres to Franco seems like no coincidence