nick pivetta

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

Phillies crawl into 1st-place tie, match NL history for longest 9-inning game

Phillies crawl into 1st-place tie, match NL history for longest 9-inning game

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PITTSBURGH — It was a good night for the Phillies, but not necessarily for Major League Baseball.

The Commissioner’s office is very concerned with the amount of time it is taking to play games these days. Steps to shorten times of game have been taken.

So you can bet MLB officials weren’t too keen on the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates needing four hours, 30 minutes to play nine innings Friday night. 

But the Phillies? They didn’t mind all that much. They came out of the marathon evening with a 17-5 victory and a share of first place in the National League East in a game that tied the record for longest nine-inning NL game ever (see first take).

“Really?” catcher Andrew Knapp said upon being made aware of that fact.

Knapp conceded the game did feel long.

“But thankfully we were hitting for most of it,” he said.

The Phillies did that. They hit and hit and hit. They also walked 10 times. Five of those walks turned into runs.

In all, the Phillies had 18 hits. They were 9 for 20 with runners in scoring position. Every starting position player had at least one hit. Scott Kingery had four of them. Knapp and Odubel Herrera both had three-run homers.

The Phillies have won five in a row and seven of their last eight. They are 11 games over .500. They are flying high, tied atop the NL East with Atlanta.

“I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” Knapp said. “I don’t think anyone in this clubhouse doesn’t expect us to be there.”

Manager Gabe Kapler expects the Phils to be there. Before the game, he mentioned that the Phillies should be thinking about winning the division (see story).

“It’s definitely gratifying,” Kapler said of claiming a share of first place.

Kapler was more enthused about the way the Phillies got there. He and the front office are trying to build a lineup that sees pitches, grinds out at-bats, hits mistakes, takes walks and gets on base. There was a lot of that in this game. The Pirates had trouble throwing strikes and Phillies hitters remained patient and took advantage.

“It’s definitely gratifying to play Phillie-style baseball today, Phillie-style offense,” Kapler said. “We again continue to work counts and see a lot of pitches and grind down the opposition and really it’s becoming our calling card. I believe it’s a great way to win baseball games and I think our guys are starting to walk the walk more and more.”

Not everything went well in the game for the Phillies. Their defense was sloppy early in the game and they were burned by a defensive shift to open the top of the fourth and that led to a run.

Ultimately, however, the defense made two big plays when the game was still close. Rightfielder Nick Williams and third baseman Jesmuel Valentin each cut down a potential run at the plate to hold off the Pirates when they were still in the game.

Nick Pivetta did not pitch well, but he also did not get help from his defense. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up five hits and two walks. The bullpen gave up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

By the conclusion of the interminable game, it was difficult to even remember that Pivetta had pitched. He was one of 13 pitchers used by the two teams.

Despite the poor outing, Pivetta maintained his sense of humor when told that the length of the game had tied the National League record, previously set by Colorado and Arizona June 24, 2016.

“I set the tone pretty well tonight,” he deadpanned. 

“But these guys, they didn't give up. And that's fun to watch. You sit in here, they scuffle the first couple innings and they come back. Some guys put great at-bats together and we won the game. I think that's the most important thing.”

More on the Phillies

Worth the wait as longest 9-inning game in Phillies' history produces 1st-place tie

Worth the wait as longest 9-inning game in Phillies' history produces 1st-place tie

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PITTSBURGH — The Phillies played over some sloppy defense early in the game en route to their fifth straight win on Friday night.

They also made some history.

They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 17-5, to improve to 11 games over .500. The win moved the Phillies into a first-place tie with Atlanta in the National League East.

The game took an interminable four hours, 30 minutes to play. That tied the National League record for longest nine-inning game, set June 24, 2016, by the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Previously, the longest nine-inning Phillies game was four hours, 13 minutes set three years to the day earlier in a game at Dodger Stadium.

The Phillies pounded out 18 hits and walked 10 times. Five of those walks became runs. They were 9 for 20 with runners in scoring position. Odubel Herrera and Andrew Knapp both hit three-run homers. The Phillies’ bullpen gave up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings after starter Nick Pivetta exited early.

Big nights were had all around.

Cesar Hernandez was on base all night. He had three hits and scored three runs.

Rhys Hoskins had two singles, walked twice, drove in a run and scored three.

Herrera had four RBIs.

Carlos Santana drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly and a two-run double.

Further down in the order, Scott Kingery had four hits and an RBI and Maikel Franco had a two-run double early in the game.

The Phillies are 5-0 against the Pirates this season.

Pivetta lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up three runs. He did not pitch well, but the case could be made that he should not have given up a run.

Centerfielder Herrera, sans sunglasses, lost a catchable ball in the sun with two outs in the first inning. It went for a double, setting the table for an RBI hit by Colin Moran.

In the fourth, the Pirates scored two more runs against Pivetta after a third strike wild pitch that probably could have been blocked by catcher Knapp and a failed turn of a double play by Kingery and Franco.

The Pirates’ fourth run probably would not have happened if an infield shift did not backfire on the Phillies. Josh Bell stroked a leadoff hit through the second base area but Hernandez had no play because he was shifted behind the bag. Bell hustled his way to a double and scored on a hit by Starling Marte.

The defense wasn’t all bad. Rightfielder Nick Williams cut down a run at the plate in the first inning and third baseman Jesmuel Valentin, who double-switched into the game in the fifth, cut down the potential tying run with a nice play in the fifth.

Then the Phillies' offense went crazy and the game turned into a blowout.

A very long one at that (see story).

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