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Phils beat D-backs behind Pivetta, 4-run 8th

Righty goes 6 scoreless innings to outduel Greinke, even series
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHOENIX -- Nick Pivetta pitched so well Tuesday night at Chase Field and the Phillies' rotation has pitched so well in its past eight games that Nick Williams joked that he lately has spent more time in the outfield watching birds than catching fly balls.

Pivetta pitched six scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory over the D-backs, maintaining the first-place Phillies' 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East.

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PHOENIX -- Nick Pivetta pitched so well Tuesday night at Chase Field and the Phillies' rotation has pitched so well in its past eight games that Nick Williams joked that he lately has spent more time in the outfield watching birds than catching fly balls.

Pivetta pitched six scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory over the D-backs, maintaining the first-place Phillies' 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East.

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He allowed five hits and one walk against Arizona. He struck out six. He has allowed just two runs in 12 innings in his last two starts, an encouraging sign following a rough June and July. Meanwhile, the Phillies' rotation has a 1.46 ERA in its last eight games, reinforcing the front office's belief that the Phillies did not need to trade prospects to acquire a starter before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"It's really nice when everybody is really clicking together and we're doing really great things and we kind of feed off each other and move in the right direction," Pivetta said. "It just helps each and every single one of us to learn from what the guys are doing well and making it happen in your next start."

Video: PHI@ARI: Neshek closes out the Phillies' 5-2 win

Pivetta has been a topic of conversation for Phillies fans the past several weeks. He went 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA in his first 11 starts this season. But he posted a 6.70 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) in June and July.

But the Phillies' belief in Pivetta never wavered. Sure, they scouted several starters before July 31, but it seemed to be only a matter of due diligence. The front office made their intentions clear: It wanted no part of the starting-pitching market, in part because it is expensive, and in part because they believed nobody - not even former Phillies ace Cole Hamels - offered a clear upgrade over their current group.

That included Pivetta.

The Phillies pointed to two numbers that indicated Pivetta had been the victim of some bad luck and his final two months of the season would look more like his April and May.

Pivetta entered the night with a 3.57 FIP, which ranked 24th out of 77 qualified starters in baseball. He ranked 11th with a 3.20 xFIP, which is a predictive statistic that attempts to estimate a pitcher's effectiveness without factoring the defense behind him. It looks at strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches and fly balls allowed. Trevor Bauer, Charlie Morton and Carlos Carrasco were the three pitchers that ranked ahead of him on that list. Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander ranked immediately behind him.

Pivetta has to be well-versed in xFIP these days, right?

"No, no, no," Pivetta said, smiling. "I don't know anything about it."

Pivetta did not sound terribly convincing. Regardless, he got the message from Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

The Phillies believe in him.

"The organization has continued to show a great degree of confidence in Nick Pivetta and this is Nick kind of rewarding the organization for its patience," Kapler said. "He has been looking for ways to bring out these types of performances -- studying between starts, looking for ways to make adjustments, preparing his body physically and it all showed up for him."

Video: PHI@ARI: Kapler on Phillies' 5-2 win over D-backs

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nick helping Nick: Williams has been swinging the bat so well since early May that Kapler moved him to the No. 3 spot in the Phillies' lineup on Saturday. He hit there again Tuesday, and in the third inning he hit a first-pitch fastball from Greinke for a solo home run to right field. It was Williams' 16th homer of the season.

"I was just looking for something up," Williams said. "He loves to go down."

Video: PHI@ARI: Williams hits a solo homer to right-center

Arano steps up: Victor Arano threw 33 pitches in Monday's 14-inning loss, but the Phillies needed him in the eighth inning after left-hander Aaron Loup put a couple runners on base with one out. Arano eventually got out of the inning, although Odubel Herrera misplayed a ball in center field and Maikel Franco let a ball roll between his legs for an error to make matters worse. He finally got Eduardo Escobar to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"He weathered a pretty incredible storm out there," Kapler said. "He was able to keep his wits about him, stay composed, stay under control and continue to deliver sharp pitches. He's been excellent for us all year."

SOUND SMART
Asdrubal Cabrera doubled off the right-field wall in the eighth inning to score two runs and hand the Phillies a 4-0 lead. Cabrera is hitting .429 (6-for-14) with one double, two home runs, six RBIs and a 1.429 OPS in his last four games. He hit .130 (3-for-23) with one double and a .341 OPS in his first six games with the Phillies.

Video: PHI@ARI: Cabrera drives in two with double

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Cesar Hernandez bunted a ball just to the left of the pitcher's mound in the top of the eighth inning and actually scored on the play. D-backs left-hander Jake Diekman bounced the ball in front of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to allow Hernandez to cruise through second base and on to third. D-backs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. then picked up the ball down the right-field line and threw the ball into the stands on the third-base side to allow Hernandez to score. That was an E-1 and an E-9 to score one insurance run. More >

Video: PHI@ARI: Hernandez rounds bases on Little League HR

HE SAID IT
"We know how to take a punch. We took a punch last night and it was a hard one, but we bounced back today and it's sort of the character of our club now. We get knocked down but we pop right back up." -- Kapler

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-8, 3.80 ERA) faces D-backs left-hander Patrick Corbin (8-4, 3.31 ERA) on Wednesday afternoon in the series finale at Chase Field. Velasquez has a 2.18 ERA (11 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings) in eight starts since he allowed 10 runs to the Brewers in early June. He has struck out 45 and walked 18 in that span. First pitch is set for 3:40 p.m. ET.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Pivetta