It was the biggest series of the season, so far and the biggest we have seen at Citizens Bank Park for a few seasons, as the NL East 1st Place Atlanta Braves (29-19) came to town. This would be a good 1st half of the season measure of whether the 2nd place Philadelphia Phillies (28-19) are for real. Since they will not see the Braves again until September, this was also a chance to wipe away all the series losses of the season so far to them.
Except for some sloppy defense in game two, I would say they passed all their tests, and have to feel good about themselves going forward.
The word for this series though was Pitching, as only 11 runs combined where tallied.
Both Nick Pivetta (4-2,3.23 ERA) and Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (3-3, 2.72) were scattering base runners left and right as the 1st 1-2-3 inning by either pitcher was the top of the 4th, but the score was still 0-0.
That changed when Nick Williams lofted a HR (3) to LF in the bottom of that inning. That made it 16 consecutive games for the Phillies with a HR, the longest active streak in MLB. More on that below.
Pivetta after the early innings, had it all working, but Foltynewicz was also on his game. In the end though, once again a Phillies starter outlasted the opposition as Foltynewicz was gone after 6In, giving up only the 1ER on the solo HR to Williams. The rest of his eventual L line, 6H, 5K, 2BB. 105P – 67 for strikes.
Pivetta went him one better by retiring 12 of the last 13 batters, to end a Solid 7 In, 4H, K, 1BB, 0R, 107P – 72 for strikes, night.
This is starting to be a good pattern for Nick as in his last three starts he has gone 19 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 25K. This after a one inning disaster in DC, where he gave up 6 ER and 2 HR. The Phillies have won 12 of the last 14 games he has started, dating back to last year.
Aaron Altherr got his second PH HR (5) of the season, also scoring Kingery who reached on a perfect bunt single to 3B, to give the Phils and Pivetta a bit more breathing room, in the 7th. This came off of RHP Shane Carle, who had only given up 2 ER in 26 In.
Seranthony Dominguez entered in the 8th, and momentously gave up the first hit of his MLB career with one out in his seventh appearance. He held a major league relief record (Live Ball Era) by retiring the first 22 he faced. He still got his H(4).
Hector Neris came on for a 1-2-3 S(9), helped out by Jorge Alfaro‘s cannon of an arm, and Santana’s glove to end the game.
Vince Velasquez (4-5, 4.18 ) was coming in on a 3 game W streak, with his last start a 6.1In, 5H, 0R, 5K gem against the very good St Louis Cardinals.
This night was not to be one of his good outings. Though he only gave up one earned run, an Ozzie Albies HR (14) in the 2nd, his pitch count got out of hand early. The fourth inning, where he loaded the bases with no outs, and then struck out the side, took the biggest toll on him with 27 pitches thrown.
Velazquez could not get out of 5th, and left the game after giving up 2nd and 3rd, one out. A Carlos Santana error on a FC to home, allowed one run to score. This was the fourth game in a row that Santana had committed an error. Victor Arano then came on to get out of the inning, holding the score to 2-0 Braves.
The Phillies would show their usual resilience and cut the lead in half on a Maikel Franco single, Altherr BB, and Cesar Hernandez RBI single.
That would be the only run allowed by Braves RHP Brandon McCarthy, who pitched 5.2In, 4H, 1R – earned – 5K, 2BB for the W. That win was cemented by another Atlanta run in the 9th inning and 3.1 shut down innings by the Braves pen.
Velasquez losing line was 4.1In, 6H, 2R – 1ER – 9K, 3BB, 1HR, 89P – 55 for strikes.
Arodys Vizcaino would earn his 9th save to even the series.
This game looked to be yet another pitcher’s duel, and did not disappoint.
While Jake Arrieta (4-2, 2.45) would wind up scattering 7H, he performed one escape act after another and did not allow anyone to reach home plate. Citizens Bank Park has been very good to him in his career and he has gone 15 full innings without giving up a R here going back to April 25th, compiling a 3-0, 0.84 ERA in five starts.
Braves LHP starter Luiz Gohara, meanwhile was baffling the Phillies with a mix of mid 90’s moving FB, and a low 80’s slider that most of the time was off the plate, but Phils batters swinging at them anyway.
This would start to change in the 3rd inning when they would put up the first of three singletons in a row on two BB and two singles. The last, an RBI IF single that dribbled towards 3rd softly enough that Santana could reach base, and no other play could be made.
This all came with two outs, as did every run they would score in this game.
Gohara, who was making his first start of the season after three outings in relief, would leave after giving up another run in the 4th, 1H, 2R – both earned – 6K, 4BB, 0HR, 78P – 49 for strikes to take his first L of the season.
Even with all the base runners, Arrieta was still going into the 7th, but he appeared to be running out of gas a bit, so was pulled with men on 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, 6.2In, 7H, 0R, 7K, 1BB, 109P – 76 for strikes. This inning could have been a lot worse but the CS by Alfaro below had erased a runner earlier
The man who has been a revelation out of the pen over and over, Seranthony Dominguez, once again came on in a pressure spot.
With many of the crowd of 27,647 on their feet cheering, he struck out Preston Tucker on six pitches.
He stayed on for a 1-2-3 8th as well.
As Neris warmed up for his possible 10th S of the season, the Phillies would get their fourth 2 out RBI of the game, this time on Super Sub Williams PH 2B.
Neris would still come on to finish the game, giving up a single and a BB, but he was throwing well, and it never felt like a threat.
The Star Wars night crowd was certainly feeling the Force as they saw their Phightin Phils get to within .5 games of first place.
The HR noted above, besides leading MLB this season, also tied the second-longest streak in team history (2002, 2006). The World Series Championship team of 2008 had an 18 game streak – not a shock to anyone. FWIW that streak ended in game two, nor did they homer in the finale.
The Phillies own MLB’s best home record, 18-7, while their +54 run differential at home is tied for first with the New York Yankees.
The book-ending shut-outs are the third and fourth time the Braves are blanked this season, and fifth and sixth the Phillies staff has tossed.
Excellent pitching from the top of the rotation to just about every guy out of the pen, is driving this team right now -the Philles are 2nd in MLB behind the Astros (32) with 21 games allowing two or fewer R – as Hoskins, Kingery, and Santana have really not been hitting as well as we know they can. When this offense heats up a little more and the pitching holds, this team can realistically be a contender. As I did last week, I again urge all Philly Phans to come out to the ballpark while this good streak continues.
Speaking of attending the games yours truly is now 5-0 at CBP this season as I was at the finale. It was the first time I saw somebody but Nola start, but the end result was the same.
The Phillies end another quick home stand with a three game holiday weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays (23-27, 4th Place AL East)
Toronto Blue Jays @ Philadelphia Phillies
Friday, May 25, 7:05 PM ET
Sam Gaviglio, RHP
Saturday, May 26, 4:05 PM ET
Jaime Garcia, LHP
Sun, May 27 • 1:35 PM EDT
J.A. Happ, LHP
After this the Phillies go on a west coast road trip, with four weekday games in LA next week, so the Friday wrap-up will be much abbreviated as I will not actually see any of the games, and will most likely not be posted until Saturday. I will have more on that late next week.
Until then #LetsGoPhillies!