BALTIMORE -- Though Nick Pivetta's long-awaited rebound start ended on a down note -- a two-run homer to Trey Mancini -- the flood of applause from the strong-traveling cohort of fans from up I-95 that showered him as he walked off the field was perhaps therapeutic.
Pivetta entered Thursday's 5-4 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards coming off two consecutive starts that totaled 4 1/3 innings and 10 runs allowed (eight earned). One more start like that and his spot in the rotation potentially could have been in question, especially with a recent strong spot start from Enyel De Los Santos.
But the outside noise didn't faze the righty, who refocused for 6 2/3 innings -- not allowing a hit until the fifth -- and recorded his first win in a start since May 21, giving him a clearer head and higher self-esteem going into the All-Star break.
"I think I dialed it in right here to get into the All-Star break," Pivetta said. "When we come back, [it's] a lot of momentum, and I think it's going to be positive for us. … I felt back into the swing of things of where I was and look forward to the next start."
So now, at the very least, Pivetta has begun to trend in the right direction. The Phillies -- winners after arriving in Baltimore around 3 a.m. Thursday morning on what was originally an off-day -- are going in the same direction, too, back in sole control of first place in the National League East with the Braves idle.
"He needed it for him and for his confidence levels," manager Gabe Kapler said of Pivetta. "We needed it as a team because we didn't want to go to our 'pen -- and we had used our 'pen quite a bit. He did a great job of establishing that he could go deep into the game."
But Pivetta wasn't the only Phillie eyeing a breakout performance. Catcher Jorge Alfaro had just three hits in July entering Thursday's make-up game. By the final out against Kevin Gausman and the Orioles, he had three more hits and reached base four times, including the eventual game-winning solo homer to go along with a two-run double.
"I just try to calm down and put into the game what I'm doing with the hitting coach," Alfaro said. "Try to be patient, try to breathe and try to find a pitch that I can hit hard. That's all I tried to do today."
The Phillies got to Gausman early and often, forcing the righty to give up a career-high 12 hits in five-plus innings of work. Carlos Santana and Nick Williams filled in the blanks with the other two runs batted in on the night.
But the home offense rallied back into it. After the Mancini home run, Jace Peterson homered on the very next pitch -- the first of only two pitches in Tommy Hunter's relief appearance -- to cut the deficit to one. Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez ensured that deficit stayed pat.
The comforting cheers from the traveling Phillies fans for Pivetta were outdone only on the final out of the game.
"Our fans were here supporting us, and we heard them," Kapler said. "... At the end of the game, we literally felt our fans stand up and clap as Seranthony delivered the last pitch of the game. It was meaningful, we felt it and we very much appreciated it."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Pivetta pitches out of errors: Pivetta topped 20 pitches in an inning just once on Thursday, and had it been for sharper defense in the second, that number would have been zero. Adam Jones began the inning by reaching on an error attributed to Santana.
Pivetta recovered to strike out Chris Davis, but another error allowed Mark Trumbo to reach, and a wild pitch moved the runners over to second and third. Pivetta would rebound, however, with a strikeout and soft grounder to end the inning.
"One of the things that stood out to me was staying composed when things don't go exactly his way," Kapler said. "Not only did he stay composed in those moments, but he elevated his game. … Our defense in that second inning kind of let us down a little bit, and in those moments, Nick stepped up and stayed composed."
Though the Phillies had just one scheduled road trip to Baltimore, Pivetta pitched twice at Camden Yards thanks to the make-up game, and he fared well, going 2-0 in those starts.
HE SAID IT
"I think what we are is a good baseball team, a humble baseball team, a hungry baseball team. I think that the more exposure we get nationally, the more people will recognize that we are hungry, we are humble and we are talented." -- Kapler, on his team's standing with the All-Star break looming
The Phillies will look to stay hot through another quick turnaround, traveling to Miami for a three-game series with the Marlins starting Friday. Jacob Arrieta, who will get the ball in the opener, is showing signs of improvement in July after a rough June. Wei-Yin Chen will oppose, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET.