Carlos Santana, so confident that his batting slump would turn around, said last week to check back in September and see what his stats looked like. Fans might not need to wait that long.
The first baseman’s five RBIs in Wednesday night’s 11-3 trouncing of San Francisco gave him 12 in the last six games. His batting average (.189) has risen 46 points in May, and his OPS (.698) is 127 points higher than it was at the end of April. Santana is trending in the right direction. At this rate, he could invite fans to check his stats at the end of May.
Santana’s RBI double in the first inning was his 10th-straight hit for extra bases. He added two-run singles in the fifth and sixth to tie a career-high for RBIs in a game. It was a night filled with success.
“We knew if he continues to strike the ball with authority and continued to hit the ball hard all over the ballpark, then eventually those balls would start to fall,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Over the course of time, that happens. You do run into stretches when you’re a little bit unlucky. For Carlos, we never had a doubt.”
The victory clinched a series win after four-straight series losses. The Giants entered Philadelphia winners of 13 of their last 16 and seemed to be a stiff test. The Phillies passed with ease. A win Thursday afternoon would complete their second four-game sweep of the season and put the Phils into a tie for first place — at least until the Braves and Marlins play in the evening.
Santana’s success is a reflection of a lineup that is starting to click. The Phillies scored 26 runs in the first three games of the series, and every starter reached base Wednesday, with four players driving in runs.
Maikel Franco drove in two runs, including a 435-foot homer in the fourth. Rhys Hoskins, who was left out of the starting lineup for just the second time this season, drove in a run in the sixth with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly. Odubel Herrera walked three times and reached base safely for the 38th-straight game, the second-longest streak by a Phillies player since 2000.
The Phillies lineup — including Santana — was built to hit. Its slugging percentage through the first eight games of May (.468) is 93 points higher than at the end of April. After a slow month, the hitters seem to be coming around.
“Everybody is all together,” Santana said. “Everybody is comfortable. Everything is positive.”
Santana’s first-inning double provided a boost for starting pitcher Nick Pivetta, who struck out seven in five scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and no walks but was limited by a high pitch count. It was a start Pivetta needed after lasting less than two innings in his last start and registering a 15.00 ERA over his last two outings.
The Phillies entered the season with high expectations for Pivetta, and he fulfilled them for his first five starts. Wednesday night was a return to that. The righthander relied on his four-seam fastball to induce six swing-and-misses.
“His fastball had a lot of life today,” Kapler said. “His secondary stuff was a little inconsistent, but after a rocky start, he came back and stayed composed. It was a really strong job by him.”
The Phillies were already ahead by eight runs when Santana came to the plate in the sixth with runners on second and third. A win was in sight, but a final blow would be welcomed. Santana poked a single to center. Two runs scored. A win felt even safer.
Santana rounded first, pointed to the sky, and rubbed his hands together toward his teammates, who cheered in the dugout. This was the Santana the Phillies expected when they signed him this offseason. They don’t have to wait until September.
“It’s a big difference. Right now, I feel comfortable,” Santana said. “The weather is better, too. I’m trying to help my team and stay focused. It’s a difference.”