MIAMI – Scott Kingery’s feet were planted in shallow right field on Friday night as he grabbed Aaron Altherr’s throw in the sixth inning and turned toward home.
It was just a moment earlier that a one-run lead looked to be erased when Marlins pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich rocketed a fly ball off Jake Arrieta that carried like a home run to left field. But the would-be two-run homer stayed in Marlins Park by barely hitting the top of the wall. It was not a homer but it at least seemed to be enough to drive in the tying run from first base.
But then Kingery turned toward home and made the throw that helped provide the difference in a 2-0 win. He caught Altherr’s throw and fired a sharp relay to Jorge Alfaro who reached out just in time to tag out Cameron Maybin. The ball hit the perfect part of the wall, Altherr made a perfect read, Kingery made the perfect throw, and Alfaro perfected the tag. That’s what it took to preserve a series-opening win.
The first-place Phillies have won four of their last five games. They are 13 games above .500 for the first time this season. A sweep in Miami feels possible with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin waiting to start. If so, the Phillies could enter the all-star break on a four-game winning streak and winners of six of their last seven. It would be quite the roll.
Arrieta pitched seven shutout innings and recorded 10 of his 21 outs via groundouts. It was an ideal night for the righthander as he was able to induce weak contact and keep the ball on the ground. And when the Marlins did hit it in the air, the Phillies made the perfect play.
Friday was Arrieta’s final start before the all-star break and he’ll enter the four-day respite with consecutive starts of seven innings. He struggled in June as the success he garnered in May by relying on ground balls over strikeouts was no longer working. But he may have turned a corner this month. He has a 1.89 ERA through his first three starts of July. The Phillies will begin the second half in the hunt for a playoff berth. A dependable Arrieta could play a key role.
Victor Arano handled the eighth inning and Pat Neshek closed out the ninth. Neshek needed just 13 pitches to record his second save of the season. He has yet to allow a run in five appearances.
The Phillies offense did little, but the two runs they scraped together were enough. They had just five hits before the ninth, when Maikel Franco hit a huge home run to left field. They struck out 12 times and had just four chances with runners in scoring position. Their one hit with runners in scoring position came from Altherr, who sliced a double in the second inning to left to bring in Scott Kingery. Altherr gave the Phillies a lead and his throw would start the play that made sure the lead was safe.