The Phillies, Aaron Nola said, are back on the “winning train.” Well, let’s see how far this train can go. The Phillies have finally won consecutive games again, and a win Wednesday night would give the Phils their first series win in three weeks. There was a lot to like Tuesday night: Nola struck out 10, Scott Kingery homered, and Seranthony Dominguez bailed out the bullpen. The train rolls on. And as a wise man once said, Don’t stand on the tracks when the train’s coming through.
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Kingery’s ‘long ride’ to a breakthrough
Gabe Kapler grabbed hold of the little things Scott Kingery did over the last few weeks and counted victories. The manager noticed fewer check swings and more takes on pitches that should not be chased. He watched as Kingery went to the plate with a sense of calmness and attacked pitches with certainty.
“It’s been a long ride for him,” Kapler said.
Tuesday night, those little things finally resulted in something a bit more tangible. Kingery homered in the first inning for his first homer since April 10. He drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the third. He has reached base safely in 18 of his last 20 starts. The little things might be leading to a breakthrough.
“It’s been a process,” Kingery said. “We’re just trying to just go step by step and get back to when I feel good in the box, and I think that’s come along. It’s something I’m going to keep working on every day.”
Kapler batted Kingery at the bottom of the lineup for most of May. But then he saw those little things emerge and bumped him up in the order. The rookie batted fifth Tuesday for the second straight game after spending time last week in the three hole. He turned on the first pitch he saw, a 97-mph fastball from Jon Gray, and launched it into the left-center field seats.
The Phillies have been patient with Kingery as he works his way out of a funk, and the homer was his third extra-base hit in his last six starts. He has walked in three straight games. Perhaps these are signs that he is pulling himself out of that funk.
“We have been seeing signs of Scotty from early April and spring training emerging,” Kapler said.
Aaron Nola was magnificent again Tuesday night. And it was his calm, easy demeanor that stuck out to me. Nola never seems to get fazed no matter what the situation is. Kapler said it’s “an intangible that very few pitchers have.”
Maikel Franco was out of the lineup again Tuesday night, as he sat for the fifth straight game. He hasn’t started since last Wednesday in Chicago. The Phillies have shifted Franco into a platoon, and the third baseman is staying positive as he said his new role is something he has to get used to.
First-round pick Alec Bohm took batting practice at Citizens Bank Park before Tuesday’s game, as the Phillies showcased the player they hope is their “third baseman of the future.” Bob Brookover went down the rabbit hole of the team’s third basemen since Scott Rolen departed. The Phillies have to hope Bohm is more Scott Rolen and less Hector Luna.
The Phillies have signed Bohm and 19 of their other selections from last week’s draft. Bohm will head to the Gulf Coast League before moving quickly to either Williamsport or Lakewood, where the Phillies expect him to finish the season.
Tonight: Phillies go for a winning streak with Nick Pivetta on the mound, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez starts the series finale against the Rockies, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Phillies head to Milwaukee to play the Brewers, 8:10 p.m.
Monday: Phils return home to play three vs. St. Louis, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Aaron Nola and Rockies starter Jon Gray each threw 108 pitches Tuesday night, and each struck out 10 or more. It was the first time since 2011 — Cliff Lee vs. Arizona’s Ian Kennedy — that a Phillies starter and the opposing starter struck out 10 or more batters in a game.
From the mailbag
Question: Vince Velasquez continues to pitch around 5 innings per start. With [Enyel] De Los Santos and [Cole] Irvin pitching so well at Lehigh Valley, isn’t it time to give one of them an opportunity to show what he can do in the big leagues? Alicia T., email
Answer: There is little doubt that De Los Santos and Irvin will reach the majors this season. The Phillies just have to wait for an opportunity. Zach Eflin is holding his own right now, and it will take more than just one 10-run start to push Velasquez out. But if Velasquez’s struggles continue, then the pressure on him will build as there is only so much time that the Phils can keep those two pitchers in triple A. I would say chances are good at least one of the two makes a start before the end of July.