With the National League East leading Braves in town for an important series (or at least as important as a mid-May series can get), there was some question as to how the Phillies would react. The Braves had given them trouble all season, and most of the Phillies’ roster is woefully unfamiliar with playing in meaningful games.
Monday night was certainly encouraging. Thanks in part to two guys named Nick, the Phillies took game one, and inched closer to first place.
Here are the highlights:
Most of Nick Williams’ success this season has come as a pinch hitter. Given an opportunity to start on Monday night, he did not disappoint. He went 2-4, including this opposite field shot that gave the Phillies their first run of the game.
Nicky just fought a ball off and hit a homer the opposite way. 1-0 Phillies. pic.twitter.com/57pqS8FK22— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 22, 2018
Take note of the old guy in the stands who pushed aside a young fan in pursuit of the ball. If you are ever in a similar situation, please don’t be that guy.
Williams’ homer was all the offense the Phillies would need, because starting pitcher Nick Pivetta was dealing. There were some shaky moments at the start, as he required 46 pitches to get through the first two innings. After that, it was nothing but smooth sailing. He cruised through the Braves lineup, only allowing two base runners over the next five.
Since the one-inning debacle against Washington, Pivetta has been excellent, and is giving Phillies fans more and more reason to believe.
Nick Pivetta is through six. His last three starts (since the DC incident):— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) May 22, 2018
18 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 24 K
Small Ball Meets Long Ball
Despite Pivetta’s dominance, the Phillies wisely decided to score more runs. In the seventh inning, the Phillies used a combination of small and long ball to add a couple of insurance runs. First Scott Kingery reached base with a bunt single, and Aaron Altherr followed that up with a towering blast.
Altherr with the huge pinch-hit homer!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 22, 2018
Phillies take a 3-0 lead in the seventh. pic.twitter.com/tldyLGFjq3
Did Odubel Herrera Get on Base?
Yes. One day after his on-base streak ended (OR DID IT???), Herrera wasted no time starting a new streak when he singled in the first inning. He also added another single later in the game.
Your Closer: Hector Neris
Last week it appeared that Hector Neris might have lost the closer job in favor of either Edubray Ramos or Seranthony Dominguez. But it was Hector Neris who started - and finished - the ninth inning tonight.
As for Seranthony...
Many fans would like to see Dominguez made the closer yesterday, but after tonight’s disappointing performance, the Phillies might want to think twice before using him in key situations.
It took seven appearances, but Seranthony Dominguez finally allowed his first hit in the big leagues.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) May 22, 2018
What a bum.
The Arm of Alfaro
Shutouts often require a combination of strong pitching and strong defense. While Nick Pivetta provided the former, the Phillies’ fielders came through as well. Most prominent was Jorge Alfaro who showed us exactly what a weapon his arm is. He had several strong throws including this play to end the game:
Phillies win on Alfaro's insane throw. I love this team. pic.twitter.com/bMjAj7TTo1— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 22, 2018
Let’s Keep it Going
The Phillies can seize first place with a win tomorrow night when Vince Velasquez faces the Braves for the fourth time this season. While the first three starts haven’t gone very well for the Phils, considering how well Vince has been pitching lately, it feels like he’s due for a strong game.