PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies left their home crowd with a sense of optimism in their final game at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break.The Phillies beat the Orioles, 4-1, Wednesday in front of a Fourth of July crowd of 30,943. They got the victory behind another strong start from
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies left their home crowd with a sense of optimism in their final game at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break.
The Phillies beat the Orioles, 4-1, Wednesday in front of a Fourth of July crowd of 30,943. They got the victory behind another strong start from their ace, Aaron Nola, who will almost certainly pitch in the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard before his next start in Philadelphia.
The win was the fourth in a row and the sixth in seven games for the Phillies, who moved to just 1 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East. It also pushed the Phillies to 47-37, marking the first time the franchise has been at least 10 games over .500 since the end of the 2011 season -- the last time they made the playoffs.
The Phillies are looking more and more like a postseason contender in 2018.
"I think it's a nice milestone and one that we can celebrate," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "We'll use it as fuel and motivation."
Nola had to work out of the stretch often in his holiday start. The Orioles had at least one runner on base in each of Nola's seven innings, knocking seven hits and working two walks against the right-hander.
But Nola gave up just one run on Adam Jones' RBI double in the third inning. He avoided more damage in the seventh inning with runners on the corners. Nola got Manny Machado to fly out to second baseman Cesar Hernandez in shallow right field on his 103rd and final pitch of the game.
Kapler said Nola "earned the right" to face the Orioles' best hitter with the game in the balance.
"That's what I work for, to get deep in the game," Nola said. "I want to get through that inning. Our bullpen has been throwing a lot lately. I think going deep in the game is key right now."
Nola recorded nine strikeouts as he improved his record to 11-2 in 2018. He's 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA in nine starts at Citizens Bank Park this season.
The Phillies had just three hits in the game. Nick Williams had the loudest, as his two-run, 409-foot homer padded Philadelphia's lead to three runs in the seventh inning.
Philadelphia has an 11-game, four-city road trip starting Friday in Pittsburgh that separates the team from the All-Star break. The Phillies won't play at home again until July 20. If they can maintain their current level of play, the Phillies could draw even more attention in the coming weeks.
"We never really doubted ourselves," Nola said. "Other people thought we were in a rebuilding year this year. We got good additions to the team. We have veteran guys who have been on winning teams and won championships. They know what it takes to win, and I think we're following them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
On the run: Hernandez robbed Machado of a bloop RBI single with his running grab in the 7th. According to Statcast™, the Phillies' second baseman ran 84 feet to snag the liner, which had a 45 percent chance of falling for a hit. The grab kept the Phillies' lead intact and Nola in line for his third win in four starts.
"That was awesome. When he hit that, I saw Nick [Williams] was playing kind of deep, and I thought it might have a chance to drop in," Nola said. "Then, I saw Cesar running back, and I thought he had a pretty good chance to catch that. He made a really good play."
Phils capitalize on Davis' gaffe: The Phillies scored their first two runs of the game in the fifth inning when Orioles first baseman Chris Davis misplayed a softly hit grounder from Jorge Alfaro. Scott Kingery got himself and Williams in scoring position earlier in the frame with a double -- the Phillies' first hit of the game.
"For [Alfaro] to put the ball in play in that situation was absolutely enormous," Kapler said. "It was certainly a game-changer."
The two wins against the Orioles was the Phillies' sixth sweep of the season. It matches their total from the 2017 season and is the most the Phillies have had in the first half since they had seven sweeps prior to the All-Star break in 2009.
The Phillies are off Thursday before starting a series against the Pirates on the other side of the Keystone State on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Nick Pivetta (5-7, 4.66 ERA) will try to bounce back in his start after allowing seven runs to the Nationals on July 1. The Pirates will send righty Trevor Williams (6-6, 4.22) to the mound in the opener. Philadelphia swept Pittsburgh in a four-game series earlier this season.
Stephen Pianovich is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.