The Phillies finished a 5-1 homestand and improved to 6-5 by beating up on the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds, two teams that have five wins combined. Starting pitching was the most impressive aspect of the Phillies’ first homestand. The quintet of Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Jake Arrieta, Ben Lively and Aaron Nola allowed just 11 earned runs on 28 hits in 32 1/3 innings. That translates to a 3.06 ERA. The starters also walked only eight and struck out 40. Get that kind of starting pitching all season and the Phillies will win a lot of games. The team is off Thursday before heading to Tampa Bay for a weekend series.
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Meeting at the mound
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler had already allowed Nick Pivetta to go back to the mound to pitch the top of the seventh inning Wednesday night even though he had started the inning with 92 pitches and a slim one-run lead. But now there were two outs, the pitch count was higher than 100, and Kapler was on the mound to talk to Pivetta with Cincinnati slugger Adam Duvall about to come to the plate as a pinch-hitter. “When I went out to talk to him, there was no question in his eyes,” Kapler said. “They said, ‘I want this inning.’ His intensity demonstrated everything I needed to know. The real message behind what I was doing was, ‘I believe in you. I think you can take us through this inning.’ That was the message.” It was also what Pivetta did. He retired Duvall on one pitch to end the inning.
Rookie Scott Kingery got the start in left field Wednesday night, marking the fourth position at which he has started this season. He has played five positions, but has yet to get a start at second base, his usual spot. “When you’ve got Cesar [Hernandez] playing like he is, you can’t move him,” Kingery said. The rookie, however, is proving he can play everywhere.
Really, can we ever get enough of Scott Kingery? Monday night, he hit his first career home run. Tuesday night, he hit his first career grand slam. Wednesday night, he got his first walk-off RBI, a sacrifice fly in the 12th inning. He has all the baseballs from those events and called the three-game sweep “pretty cool.” Kingery is fast becoming the coolest thing about Phillies baseball, and we plan to write more about him next week and the week after that.
Columnist David Murphy offered his Inside-the-Game insights into Gabe Kapler’s managerial moves after the Phillies’ win Tuesday night over the Cincinnati Reds.
April 12: Off day
Date 13: Vince Velasquez vs. Tampa Bay’s Jake Faria, 7:10 p.m.
April 14: Jake Arrieta vs. Chris Archer, 6:10 p.m.
April 15: Ben Lively pitches series finale vs. Rays, 1:10 p.m.
April 16: Phillies open three-game series in Atlanta, 7:35 p.m.
Stat of the day
Nine Phillies have hit their first career home runs since the start of last season, with rookie shortstop J.P. Crawford becoming the latest during Wednesday night’s win over the Reds. Crawford’s was a blast into the second deck in right field. The others to homer for the first time since the 2017 opener: Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Andrew Knapp, Ben Lively, Cameron Perkins, Brock Stassi, and Nick Williams.)
From the mailbag
Can you give me an intelligent reason for sitting young players, especially Hoskins, and playing older players like Carlos Santana? They said they want players to play multiple positions, but (they) only play Hoskins in left field. — Jeff F.
Answer: There will be some days when Rhys Hoskins plays first base while Carlos Santana gets a day off, but there will not be many of them. Santana averaged 153 games during his last seven seasons with Cleveland, and if healthy, he is likely to play a similar amount this season. Hoskins is also going to play roughly 150 games even though he was not in the lineup Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if Santana and Hoskins lead the team in games played.