Simon Castro walked off the mound Saturday night and pounded his glove. He was rattled. The Oakland pitcher made a mistake, and Jorge Alfaro did not miss in the sixth inning of a 5-3 win over the A’s. Alfaro jumped on the first pitch he saw — a grooved fastball — and rocketed it to center field.
The home run, which broke a 2-2 tie, was Alfaro’s third homer in his last six games. The Phillies long believed that Alfaro could hit for power. He’s starting to show it. The Phillies learned earlier this month who their future first baseman is. Now they might be learning who their catcher is. Alfaro sure looks the part.
“We have three guys competing to be our No. 1 catcher. That’s the way I look at it,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I really like what I see. The thing I like the most is not so much his hitting. That’s a bonus as far as I’m concerned. The thing I’m most pleased with is gamecalling. I like the way he calls a game. That’s very important. You want a good defensive catcher. That’s number one. Hitting is a bonus.”
The Phillies will have to allow him to develop in the majors next season since he can no longer be optioned to the minor leagues. Alfaro still needs to fine tune his catching. But those defensive misgivings will be easier to forgive if Alfaro can harness his power stroke.
“Defense and win games. That’s all I’m thinking about,” Alfaro said. “If I hit, then that’s good. But I just try to help my pitchers and make them feel comfortable. Call good games and that’s all I’m thinking about every time I go out there. Give 100 percent to my pitchers.”
Alfaro’s home run would not have been possible had it not been for J.P. Crawford, who worked a two-out walk after falling into an 0-2 count. Crawford fouled off a pair of fastballs and then let Castro work. He passed on an outside fastball and a pair of sliders that Castro hoped he would chase. Crawford then stared at ball four, took his base, and watched Alfaro rip the first pitch he saw.
“I’m just seeing the ball well and trying to put the ball in play,” Alfaro said. “That at-bat, I tried to hit a line drive up the middle and I just put it in the air and was able to get the two runs.”
Cesar Hernandez singled in a run in the third, and J.P. Crawford tied the game at 2-2 with a single in the fourth. Crawford drove in another run with sacrifice fly in the eighth. The Phillies scored five runs after Matt Olson, who seems to be Oakland’s version of Rhys Hoskins, homered in the first off Ben Lively. Olson also homered on Friday night and has 16 homers in his last 34 games. The rookie assumed a full-time role with Oakland on Aug. 8, two days before Hoskins was promoted from triple A.
The Phillies’ bullpen logged six hitless innings after play resumed in the bottom of third following a rain delay of 1 hour, 46 minutes. The relief corps has a 1.91 ERA over their last 19 games. They’ve learned a lot about Hoskins, Crawford, and Alfaro, but seem to also be finding out about some potential in the bullpen.
“When Benoit and Neshek left, everyone thought that our bullpen was going to scuffle,” Mackanin said. “But they’ve been outstanding.”
Adam Morgan, who did not pitch Saturday, has found his place. Hoby Milner retired two batters he faced and has been solid against lefthanders. Edubray Ramos retired the only batter he faced, and Luis Garcia pitched a perfect eighth. But perhaps the best impressions came from rookie righthanders Victor Arano and Yacksiel Rios. They impressed as they retired each of the batters they faced.
Rios struck out two in the fourth. Arano, who joined the team on Tuesday from triple A, added two strikeouts in his two innings of work. Arano has allowed just one hit and one walk in his first 3 2/3 innings. Both seem to be making their cases to be kept on the 40-man roster. The Phillies may have some future pieces there, too.