The 2018 Phillies have already done something the 2017 Phillies could not. By beating the Atlanta Braves, 5-1, in 10 innings Tuesday night at SunTrust Park, the Phillies assured themselves of a winning road trip. Amazingly, that did not happen once last season when the Phillies finished 27-54 on the road. In fact, they had gone on 18 straight road trips without winning more games than they lost. The last time they had a winning trip before this one was June 21-29, 2016 when they went 5-4 in nine games against Minnesota, San Francisco and Arizona.
This will be just the sixth winning road trip for the Phillies since the start of 2015. They have made 36 road trips during that span. The Phillies have not had a winning record on the road since they went 41-40 in 2012. Now they have a chance to go 5-1 on this trip when Vince Velasquez (1-1, 3.52 ERA) faces Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 3.31) at 7:35 Wednesday night.
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Thanks to another strong performance from Nick Pivetta in Tuesday night’s win over the Braves, the Phillies’ starting rotation continued its domination during a 9-2 stretch that has pushed the Phils to four games over .500. Pivetta went only five innings, but for the third straight start, he did not walk a batter. He allowed just one run on five hits and would have had five scoreless innings if not for a botched double-play turn by rookie shortstop J.P. Crawford.
Pivetta has walked only two in 21 2/3 innings this season, and he has a 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings) through four starts. His WHIP was 1.511 a year ago when he walked 57 batters in 133 innings. Pivetta has been just part of a dominating rotation for the Phillies over the last 11 games. The starters have a 2.92 ERA during that stretch and have allowed just 57 hits and 12 walks in 64.2 innings.
The Phillies did not have an extra-base hit Tuesday and were 2 for 17 with runners in scoring position in the series when Rhys Hoskins stepped to the plate with two out in the top of the 10th inning. Hoskins was in the midst of his own disastrous evening, having struck out three times and grounding into one of the four double plays turned by the Braves. But with the count at 2-2, Hoskins delivered a two-run double to break a 1-1 tie, and the Phillies went on to a 5-1 victory that pushed them to 10-6 this season. Maikel Franco added a two-run double later in the inning, adding to his team-leading RBI total of 17.
Before Tuesday night’s victory, Hoskins revealed what he had told teammate Odubel Herrera on Monday after the outfielder was tagged out at second base because he failed to slide on a hit to right field. It’s unusual for a player with less than a year of big-league service time to emerge as a team leader, but the Phillies are young and Hoskins has the personality that is perfect for leadership. Herrera, by the way, had another hit and another RBI in the Phillies’ victory Tuesday.
Zach Eflin had a third straight strong start for triple-A Lehigh Valley, but the IronPigs failed to score in a loss to Norfolk. Here’s a full look at the Phillies minor-league report for Tuesday complete with a Tony Graham video of Colby Fitch’s 10th-inning, game-winning hit for low-A Lakewood.
Tonight: Series finale vs. Atlanta Braves, 7:35 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies open a four-game series against Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
April 24: Phillies begin three-game series with Arizona, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Phillies relievers allowed three home runs in 3 1/3 innings on opening day in Atlanta, including the walkoff, game-winner by Nick Markakis against closer Hector Neris. Since then, the Phillies bullpen has allowed just one home run in 55 innings, and that was surrendered by utility man Pedro Florimon when he came on in relief during the Braves’ blowout in the third game of the season. During the Phillies’ current 9-2 streak, the bullpen has a 1.20 ERA and has allowed just 24 hits in 37 1/3 innings.
From the mailbag
In spring training this year, I was impressed with Ryan Flaherty, an infielder who played solid defense at three different positions and hit well in the games we saw. I saw him as an able, versatile player in the mode Gabe Kapler admires. Flaherty was one of the last to be cut from the squad, but was quickly picked up by Atlanta, for whom he has performed well. He is currently the third-leading hitter in the National League, with a BA of .364. Even if he does not maintain that pace (his career BA is around .220), he was regarded highly enough by Baltimore to play there from 2012-17. Did the Phillies offer an explanation at the time of his release? Any regrets?
Answer: The Phillies did not give any detailed explanation about Flaherty’s release, but he had an out clause that he used late in spring training when it was clear he would not make the team. Orioles manager Buck Showalter loved him because of his versatility, but the Phillies identified Scott Kingery as the guy who was going to play that role for them and that makes sense since they are such a young team. They could have kept Flaherty instead of Pedro Florimon, but Florimon had a strong season for the Phillies last year and also performed well in spring training. It will be shocking if Flaherty is able to keep up this pace, but the decision has obviously worked out well for him because he has become the Braves’ starting third baseman.