The Phillies sent left-handed reliever Hoby Milner to Triple A after Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Pirates. Though the team said it would not announce a corresponding roster move until Sunday, the transaction clears a spot for reliever Tommy Hunter to be activated.
Hunter, 31, signed a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies in December, but was forced to begin the season on the disabled list after suffering a hamstring strain late in spring training. The right-hander has pitched twice at Double A Reading in recent days in preparation for his return.
Milner’s departure leaves the Phillies with just one lefty – Adam Morgan – in their bullpen. However, as manager Gabe Kapler mentioned several days ago, Hunter’s cutter can be effective against lefty hitters.
Hunter pitched in 61 games for Tampa Bay last season and held lefty hitters to a .170 (15 for 88) batting average and a .501 OPS. Righties hit .224 (28 for 125) with a .649 OPS.
Milner pitched 4 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. He allowed six hits and four runs. He walked three, hit a batter and struck out four.
The Phillies have played some extraordinarily boring games this season. But this time, they managed to get out of it with a win.
But here’s the thing: boring games are good games, at least on one level. Ben Lively had a stellar start, pitching six innings and giving up one run, three walks, and striking out four. The bullpen followed with three scoreless innings, which included Hector Neris getting the save.
I wish there was more to say. Lively was good. The bullpen was good. The offense, well… the offense is the reason there isn’t more to say. The Phillies scored in the sixth inning to tie the game. Carlos Santana hit a single (he was 2-for-4 tonight), and then Odubel Herrera singled (more about him in a moment), and then Rhys Hoskins scored Santana on a forceout. It was just that exciting.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Phillies had another chance. Cesar Hernandez hit a lead-off double, and then Santana sacrificed him to third. And then Odubel, our lovely, wonderful, passionate, genius Odubel, stepped to the plate. And he knocked a triple and broke the tie. And holy crap was he excited.
Rhys Hoskins followed with a walk, and of course, I have to mention what happened after that.
The Phillies ran into a 1-3-4-2-5-8-7 double caught stealing. That’s… amazing.
Okay. I’ve watched the play a bunch of times now, and this is my interpretation of what happened. The pitcher threw over to first base because Hoskins was wandering off the bag, and guess what? He was 100% caught off the bag and would have been out right then. But Herrera over at third had drawn the first baseman’s attention because he was a little too far off the bag. Perhaps it was because he thought Hoskins was going to keep the Pirates tied up long enough so he could score, but I have no idea. So the ball was thrown over to Odubel. And after that, it was all a mess. Odubel was caught in a rundown between third and home, and after he was tagged, Hoskins was caught as well. It wasn’t pretty.
I won’t lie, one day that kind of stuff will matter. It could be tomorrow or Sunday or anytime. But tonight, it didn’t. And all we can hope is that both Rhys, who started this by wandering too far off first base, and Odubel, will learn from this and do better in the future. We have no reason to think they won’t. And it’s fair to point something out.
So far this year, Rhys Hoskins has run into more outs on the basepaths than Odubel Herrera with boneheaded plays. This is not a slam of Hoskins. This is in defense of Herrera.
Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana and Maikel Franco each had two hits for the Phillies, who have won nine of 11 overall while improving to 7-1 at home. It is Philadelphia’s best start at home since it won seven of eight to begin the 1981 season.
Luis Garcia (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Hector Neris blanked Pittsburgh in the ninth to earn his third save in four tries.
After Hernandez led off the eighth with a double and Santana grounded out, Herrera lined an 86-mph cutter from George Kontos (1-2) on a 1-2 count just inside the first-base bag to score Hernandez and give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Rhys Hoskins walked to put runners on first and third with one out before as bizarre a double play as you’ll see ended the inning. Kontos had Hoskins picked off, but first baseman Josh Bell threw home to get Herrera, who broke for the plate on the play. Hoskins then lost track of where he was and also was out on a caught stealing double play that was scored 1-3-4-2-5-8-7.
The Pirates threatened in the ninth when Jordy Mercer doubled with one out, but David Freese popped out in the infield and Adam Frazier grounded out.
After a promising 11-3 start, Pittsburgh has dropped four of five.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch, went to third on Colin Moran’s double and scored on Mercer’s sacrifice fly to right.
Philadelphia tied it in the bottom half when Santana scored on Hoskins’ fielder’s choice grounder to third. Santana reached third on Herrera’s single to right, and Herrera tied a career high on the hit by reaching base safely in 21 straight games.
Ben Lively had his best outing in his fourth start for Philadelphia, allowing a run on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks in six innings.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova had similar numbers, giving up a run on five hits in six innings. Nova struck out three and walked none, and has fanned 21 batters against one walk in his last four starts.
Pirates: RHP A.J. Schugel (right shoulder discomfort) will make his next start at Triple-A Indianapolis. Schugel threw a scoreless inning at Single-A Bradenton on Wednesday.
Phillies: Right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two, at Double-A Reading on Friday night. Hunter, who has been sidelined all season with a strained right hamstring, made 20 pitches in his second rehab outing.
Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (1-1, 2.22) opposes Pirates LHP Steven Brault (2-1, 4.74) in the third game of the four-game set Saturday.
The Pirates and Phillies, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their divisions last season, have started on the right foot in 2018. They’ll meet for the second contest of a four-game set at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
The Phillies (11-7) took the first game of the series 7-0 on Thursday, improving to 6-1 at home under first-year manager Gabe Kapler. The Pirates (12-7), meanwhile, enter the weekend atop the National League Central despite losing three of their last four games.
“This Philly team went through a number of changes in the offseason. We went through a number of changes in the offseason,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Both teams are off to a representative start. They’re exciting, they’re young, they have some skills, they got some experienced players along helping the way. I think it’s good for everybody.”
The Pirates average 5.2 runs per game this season, but they’ve been shut out in two of their last three games. Pittsburgh will see second-year right-hander Ben Lively on Friday.
Lively (0-1, 5.87 ERA) had his shortest of three 2018 starts his last time out. He went four innings against the Rays, allowing three runs on seven hits Sunday in a 10-4 victory for the Phillies. The 26-year-old went 5 2/3 innings in each of his first two starts.
“I could have performed better but I’m going to be smiling today because we got the win,” Lively told MLB.com after his last outing.
Lively has faced the Pirates once in his career, giving up four runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk last July.
Ivan Nova will be making his fifth start of the season for the Pirates. The right-hander has looked sharp in his previous two outings.
Nova (2-1, 4.88 ERA) has pitched into the seventh inning and picked up wins in his last two starts, and has 15 strikeouts with no walks over that span. He struck out nine while giving up three runs on six hits against the Marlins on Sunday.
“I just stayed focused,” Nova told MLB.com after the start. “The curveball is something I’ve been working on. I have confidence in it now, so I’m going to keep using it. The fastball is something I wasn’t doing last year. I’ve put that in play, and it’s working really good.”
Nova has had success against Philadelphia during his nine seasons in the majors. He is 2-1 with a 4.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP against the Phillies in four starts.
The Phillies knocked out Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon in the second inning of Thursday’s series opener. Rhys Hoskins hit his third home run of the season in the second and is hitting .327 with an 1.105 OPS this season, and enters Friday’s game on a six-game hitting streak.
Cory Dickerson leads Pirates regulars with a .313 average but is 1-for-11 in his last three games.
Jake Arrieta, making his third start with the Phillies, will be on the mound against the Pirates, the team he’s faced the most during his major league career.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon will start for Pittsburgh as the cross-state foes start a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
In Arrieta’s 20 starts against the Pirates — most of which came when he was with the Chicago Cubs — he is 10-6 with a 3.18 ERA. His most notable outing against the Pirates came in the 2015 National League Wild Card game when he struck out 11 in a shutout that ended Pittsburgh’s season. The 32-year-old righty was 1-3 with a 4.07 ERA against the Pirates in 2017.
With his new team, Arrieta (1-0, 3.38 ERA) fared better in his second start than his debut. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks with one strikeout against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
“He was an absolute animal out there today,” Gabe Kapler told MLB.com of Arrieta after his last start. “Awesome job.”
Taillon (2-0, 0.89 ERA), meanwhile, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball through the season’s first three weeks. He has given up two earned runs this season, and they both came in his 2018 debut when he struck out nine batters over 5 1/3 innings against the Twins.
Taillon, 26, threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds in his second start. He followed that up with six scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
“I felt good and I grinded through six. It took everything tonight to get through it,” Taillon told MLB.com after his last start in which he allowed four hits and three walks. “That definitely wasn’t my best stuff or my best executed game, but (catcher Francisco Cervelli) stuck with me throughout the night.”
Two of Taillon’s 46 career major league starts have come against the Phillies. He’s 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in those outings.
The Pirates went 5-2 against the Phillies in 2017. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their divisions last season, but have gotten off to better starts in 2018.
At 12-6, the Pirates enter the series as the first-place team in the NL Central. The Pirates were 10-2 winners over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday and their 5.5 runs per-game average is the best mark in the National League.
The Phillies, despite losing a series against the Braves this week, are 10-7. And they’re returning for a 10-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 5-1 this season.
“We’re going home stronger than when we left on this road trip,” Kapler told reporters Wednesday after the Phillies capped a 4-2 swing through Tampa and Atlanta. “It’s not an easy thing to do in baseball, and I’m proud of our guys for doing that.”
Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, snapping a five-game hitting streak in which he went 9-for-18.
ATLANTA – Carlos Santana has just eight hits in his first 59 at-bats to register the third lowest batting average in the National League. It has been nearly two weeks since Santana’s last multi-hit game and his extra base hit came on April 9.
The common statistics say Santana is having a rough start to his first season with the Phillies. But the team believes otherwise.
“Unluckiest start in baseball,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s squaring the baseball up. He’s still walking. He’s still having great at-bats. From our perspective, Carlos is having a great start to the season. It’s just the way that baseball is set up that it doesn’t appear that way.”
There is some credence to Santana’s poor luck. Santana, who sat Wednesday for the first time this season, is hitting the ball hard, but he’s hitting it right at fielders. According to MLB’s Statcast, Santana has an average exit velocity (90.7 mph) that ranks in the top 25 percent of all hitters and the average distance of his contact (221 feet) is the sixth longest in baseball.
His contact has yet to produce results. His batting average on balls in play (.125) is the second lowest in baseball and his expected batting average (.274) has a higher differential from his actual batting average (.136) than any other hitter. He is still disciplined at the plate as his walk rate (15.1 percent) and his strikeout rate (16.4) are on par for his career numbers. Santana, the Phillies believe, just needs some luck.
“Everybody has told me not to worry, you’re making good contact, you’re hitting the ball hard. It happens in baseball,” Santana said. “Mentally, I’m just keep focusing. But I’m happy because my team is winning. It’s a long season. We’ve only played two weeks. Mentally, I’m ready to go. I’m not frustrated. I’m professional. I’ve made good contact. At any moment it can change. I’ll be fine. It’s tough, but I’ll be fine.”
Santana went 0 for 3 on Tuesday night. He entered Wednesday just two for 19 in the first five games of the road trip. He was due for a day off. Kapler texted him Wednesday morning and said “Hey, Los, tell me yes, please.” Kapler then told Santana he was giving him a day off, prefacing his request because he knows Santana wants to play everyday. Maybe a day off could change his luck.
“It’s really frustrating,” Kapler said. “As hitters, all we ever do is look up and see our stats on the scoreboard and they’re just so not indicative of our true talent, so not indicative of who we are as baseball players. As a player myself, I hated it because I could feel that I was having great at-bats and seeing the ball great and get nothing to show for it. Inevitably, it starts to wear on your confidence even though it’s not even real. I imagine for Los it’s frustrating. For all of us watching, it’s frustrating as well because we think he’s been kicking ass and having a really strong start to the season.”
The Braves promoted former Phillies first-round pick and Philadelphia native Jesse Biddle from triple A. The Phillies traded Biddle before the 2016 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery. He has since transitioned to a reliever. Wednesday was his first day in the majors….Jake Arrieta starts Thursday against Pirates righthander Jameson Taillon.
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