PITTSBURGH - It took 41 days and the longest nine-inning game in National League history, but the Phillies are back in first place in the National League East.They returned to the top spot in the division for the first time since May 26, grabbing a share of the lead with
PITTSBURGH - It took 41 days and the longest nine-inning game in National League history, but the Phillies are back in first place in the National League East.
They returned to the top spot in the division for the first time since May 26, grabbing a share of the lead with the Braves, following Friday night's 17-5 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park. Their fifth straight victory epitomized the type of game the Phillies try to play every time they step onto the field. They saw 236 pitches as they worked 10 walks to push the game to 4 hours, 30 minutes, tying a Rockies-D-backs game on June 24, 2016, for the longest nine-inning game in league history.
"It felt really long," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "It feels like guys played a part of the game, and then that was like a long time ago."
"Thankfully, we were hitting for most of it," Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp said.
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta lasted only 2 2/3 innings as defensive errors helped Pittsburgh cut the lead to 5-4 in the fourth. But the Phillies whittled away at the Pirates' pitching staff. They sent 19 batters to the plate in the sixth and seventh innings combined as they built a 14-4 lead by the eighth. A seven-run seventh inning included a three-run home run from Knapp, who also doubled off the right-field wall in the ninth.
"That's always fun," Pivetta said. "These guys, they didn't give up, and that's fun to watch. You sit in here, they scuffle the first couple innings and they come back. Some guys put great at-bats together and we won the game. I think that's the most important thing."
Five of the Phillies who walked ended up scoring.
Five Phillies hitters had multiple hits, including Scott Kingery (four), Cesar Hernandez (three), Rhys Hoskins (three), Odubel Herrera (two) and Knapp (two).
"It's definitely gratifying to play Phillie-style baseball today," Kapler said. "Phillie-style offense. We again continue to work counts and see a lot of pitches and grind down the opposition, and really, it's becoming our calling card. I believe it's a great way to win baseball games, and I think our guys are starting to walk the walk more and more."
The Phillies held first place for one day, in May. They lost the next night to Toronto and had been in second or third place ever since. Perhaps this time will be different. Maybe the Phillies will make a run.
Their final 10 games before the All-Star break are against teams currently with losing records. Five of the Braves' final seven games before the break are against teams with winning records. It's an opportunity.
"I think we're pretty comfortable with where we're at," Knapp said. "I don't think that anyone in this clubhouse doesn't really expect us to be there. It didn't really seem like today was going to go the way we wanted it to early, and for the game to finish the way it did, I think proves a lot about this team staying in it and just continuing to battle for nine innings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Franco at home hitting eighth:Maikel Franco ripped a two-out double to center field in the second inning to score two runs and hand the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Franco has hit eighth in the lineup in each of the past three games, a spot that Kapler thinks will help Franco see better pitches. Perhaps it really does make a difference. Franco is hitting .352 (6-for-17) with two doubles, two RBIs, three walks and three strikeouts in eight games hitting eighth.
Knapp stays hot: Knapp is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with four doubles, one triple, four home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.257 OPS in his past 12 games.
"I feel like myself," Knapp said. "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with myself and my preparation before a game. You know, I think this is what I have the potential to do for an entire season. I think I'm getting a little bit more playing time now, which helps a lot, too. But yeah, I think I'm really finding myself and what kind of player I can be at this level."
The Phillies saw 236 pitches, which are the second-most in a nine-inning game in franchise history. They saw a record 241 pitches in a 20-2 victory over St. Louis on June 13, 2008.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Phillies made run-saving throws in the first and fifth innings. The Pirates had runners on first and second with two outs in the first when Corey Dickerson singled to right field. Phillies right fielder Nick Williams threw out Colin Moran at the plate.
Third baseman Jesmuel Valentin threw out Dickerson at the plate with one out in the fifth, when Josh Harrison hit a chopper up the third-base line. If Dickerson had scored, it would have tied the game.
"Great play by Val, no doubt," Kapler said. "That was an important play, and I thought Williams' throw was sensational."
HE SAID IT
"I would say first and foremost, a much more confident athlete in general. More smiles. But at the plate, we're seeing him see the ball a little bit longer. I think he's in attack mode more than he has been in the past. He really, really believes in himself at the plate right now. He's willing to go to two strikes, hit with two strikes and work his way back into counts like we saw tonight." -- Kapler, on Knapp's recent hot streak at the plate
Phillies right-hander Jacob Arrieta (5-6, 3.54 ERA) will face Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon (5-6, 4.05) on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET in the second of a three-game series at PNC Park. After posting a 0.90 ERA in five May starts, Arrieta is 0-4 with a 6.16 ERA in his last six. He allowed one hit and struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings against the Pirates on April 19 at Citizens Bank Park.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.