Phillies shut out Red Sox and beat Chris Sale

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta.

Andrew Knapp runs well for a catcher, but he is a catcher, and he was trying to score from first base Thursday night on a double to left field. The Phillies had lost eight games in a row. They owned the worst record in baseball. They were in the eighth inning of a scoreless tie.

Juan Samuel, the third-base coach, waved Knapp home.

"We're facing Chris Sale. How many runs are you going to get?" Samuel said. "So you try to take as many chances as you can."

They did it. The Phillies won a game. They beat Sale, 1-0, with a rookie on the mound. They won on a pinch-hit double by little-used Ty Kelly and Boston's botched relay play.

"It's a pretty sweet win," Knapp said.

Every win is sweet for these Phillies. The way Nick Pivetta matched baseball's strikeout leader to submit the best Phillies start of the season was most impressive. He had not thrown a pitch beyond the fifth inning in any of his first six starts in the majors, then completed seven scoreless innings against a potent Boston lineup.

"It's the first time I really faced a guy like that," Pivetta said of Sale. "It was really exciting for me. I just tried to go out there and go toe-to-toe with him. I knew he was going to go out there and do his best. And he did. I just tried to stay with him as much as I could."

Pivetta, 24, showed growth. No Phillies starter had thrown seven scoreless innings since Sept. 17, 2016, when Jeremy Hellickson had a shutout.

Pivetta succeeded with his fastball, which touched 97 mph and hovered at 95. It is a fine pitch, especially when thrown down in the zone. He threw 107 pitches Thursday and 75 of them were fastballs. If his secondary pitches improve, the Phillies have an interesting arm in their rotation.

He looked impressive from the very beginning. Pivetta fired 12 first-inning pitches, the last a slider that Xander Bogaerts could not meet. Pivetta struck out nine. He walked two Red Sox, both in the second inning, when he escaped a bases-loaded jam.

His last pitch, in the seventh inning, was 95 mph. Sandy Leon, Boston's catcher, lined it right at Maikel Franco. Pivetta returned to the dugout, where pitching coach Bob McClure told him he was done at 107 pitches.

"Why is he taking me out?" Pivetta asked McClure, referring to manager Pete Mackanin.

"That's enough," McClure said.

Mackanin laughed about it.

"It's exuberance," the manager said. "This guy is really into it. You have to kind of slow him down at times. His previous outings, you could tell he was a little ahead of himself. Tonight, he appeared to be a lot more poised. We still had to slow him down."

Much of the recent attention devoted to the Phillies is about the players not here. So a night like Thursday offered catharsis.

"Right now, my job is to handle the 25 players I have," Mackanin said. "I want them to know I have confidence in them. I'm not going to talk about who I'd like to see, if anybody, to come up and take their place. I don't think that's fair to them. It's important that they know that I believe in them, that they're going to improve. So all I can do is encourage them to get better because they're my 25 players."

Kelly is the 25th man on the roster and has been with three organizations in 2017. He has three RBIs with the Phillies and all three have been go-ahead runs. Was this one, against Sale, more special?

"I don't know," Kelly said. "Maybe more of my friends will text me tonight."

For 2 hours and 25 minutes, at least, the Phillies were not the worst team in baseball.