Gabe Kapler not at all a believer of the Home Run Derby curse

BOX SCORE

BALTIMORE — The first-place Phillies dominated the comically bad Orioles for most of the night Thursday before holding on to survive a 5-4 win.

The Phils had 14 hits and put 16 men on base in the first seven innings.

This was a quick stop in Baltimore to make up the game that was postponed on May 15 following a three-hour rain delay.

The Phillies had no issue with Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman, who had a 3.13 ERA in his last six starts and is the only pitcher in Baltimore’s rotation having even an OK season. They pounded him for five runs on 12 hits over five innings.

The bottom of the order, in particular, thrived in this game. Scott Kingery and Jorge Alfaro each went 3 for 4.

It was Alfaro’s best game of the season. He doubled in two runs with a fly ball over the leftfielder’s head in the fourth inning, then homered to center in the sixth. In the AL park, Alfaro batted ninth.

In all, the Phillies’ 7-9 hitters reached base in seven of 12 plate appearances.

The Phillies improved to 52-40, a half-game better than the Braves in the NL East. The Orioles are 26-68 and on pace to lose 118 games.

Alfaro’s big night
This was, without question, Alfaro’s best offensive night of the year. It was on brand, too, with him swinging early and often.

Alfaro’s single and homer both came on the first pitch. There is no player in Major League Baseball this season who has swung at a higher percentage of pitches than Alfaro. 

Surrounded by players with good eyes like Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins, one wonders if Alfaro could someday develop even a little more selectivity. It’s never been his M.O., here at the major-league level or at any stop in the minors.

“You can set aside plate discipline if you’re really accurate with the barrel,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the win. “The one thing we know for sure is that Alfie can hit the ball hard. When he puts the ball in play, he smokes it. So if we see a little bit more contact, I think he’s a productive offensive player. At times, in stretches this season, he’s not just been productive but he’s helped us win baseball games with his bat. We know it’s in there.”

Pivetta bounces back
After pitching more than five innings just once in his last nine starts and posting a 6.63 ERA over that span, Nick Pivetta took the Phillies into the seventh in this one.

He allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts over 6⅔ innings. Pivetta was one out away from finishing seven innings when Trey Mancini got him for a two-run homer.

This was an important start for Pivetta, who lately had been the weakest link in the Phillies’ rotation. He needs to continue pitching well with Enyel De Los Santos on his heels as well as the (thin) possibility of a trade for a starting pitcher this month.

“We really needed this from Nick,” Kapler said. “Staying composed when things don’t go exactly his way. Not only did he stay composed in those moments but it’s like he elevated his game, made better pitches, had more life on his fastball through the zone.”

In 19 starts, Pivetta is 6-7 with a 4.58 ERA. He’s struck out 113 and walked 30 in 96 1/3 innings.

Kingery coming on
Kingery has three three-hit games in his last 13 after having none in his first 75.

He’s hit .306 over his last nine games and .271 over the last calendar month.

He’s still not where he wants to be, and he’s still chasing pitches at a high rate, but this represents at least some progress for the rookie shortstop.

Kingery did also commit his ninth error of the season on a throw to Hernandez trying to begin a double play. He made a nice play ranging to his right on a Mark Trumbo groundball but just tried to be too speedy instead of making sure he got one out.

The Phillies actually made two errors in that second inning but Pivetta stranded both. 

“Our defense in that second inning kind of let us down,” said Kapler, who usually avoids making such comments. “And in those moments, Nick stepped up. He didn’t carry one pitch or one play over to the next. Rather, he continued to step on it.”

Too close for comfort

Tommy Hunter allowed a solo home run to Jace Peterson on the very first pitch he threw. Over his last 11 innings, Hunter has allowed eight runs, two homers and 20 base runners. His opponents have hit .348.

On the season, Hunter has a 4.80 ERA and has allowed at least one run in 12 of his 35 appearances.

Fortunately for the Phillies, Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez combined for a scoreless eighth and ninth to preserve the one-run lead.

Dominguez pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 10 chances.

Up next
The Phillies will be in their third city in as many days Friday when they open a three-game series in Miami.

Friday at 7:10 — Jake Arrieta (6-6, 3.47) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-6, 6.14)

Saturday at 4:10 — Aaron Nola (12-2, 2.27) vs. Trevor Richards (2-5, 5.24)

Sunday at 1:10 — Zach Eflin (7-2, 3.15) vs. Jose Ureña (2-9, 4.13).

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