Nola dazzles, Hoskins muscles up in win
Starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games
PHILADELPHIA -- On a chilly Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies just needed to practice patience and hope that at some point, a break would fall their way.
"Patience means ultimately, you are going to get a pitch to hit," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "It may not be in this at-bat, or even the next at-bat, but at some point very soon you are going to get a very good pitch to hit. [Pitchers] are going to make mistakes. They are human."
That break came in the sixth inning of the Phillies' 6-2 win, and no one benefitted more than starter Aaron Nola. The right-hander continued an 8-game stretch of performances where he allowed two earned runs or fewer, dating back to Sept. 13 of last season.
Despite a leadoff home run by Pirates second baseman Sean Rodriguez, Nola (2-1) was up to standard in against the Pirates, striking out nine batters on 103 pitches, 75 of which were strikes.
"I felt pretty good today against lefties and righties," said Nola, who improved to 2-1 on the year with a 2.30 ERA.
In the sixth, Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana appeared to get hit by a pitch, but home-plate umpire Lance Barrett signaled the pitch a ball. The Phillies asked for a replay and after a 45 second review, the call was overturned and Santana was awarded first base.
A single by Odubel Herrera, who has now reached base safely a career-high 22 straight games, put runners on the corners and put an end to Pirates starter Steven Brault's day, as reliever Michael Feliz was called into action from the bullpen.
Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins stepped into the batter's box and, on a 1-2 pitch, hit his fourth home run of the season on the seventh pitch of the at-bat against Feliz, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. The Phillies have notched three straight wins against the Pirates, in which they have allowed just three runs.
"It always feels like he is in [command at the plate]," Kapler said. "It feels like he's dominating that at-bat. Even if he is down 0-2, OK [fine], let's just wait to see him get back in this count and hang in there for a pitch he can drive in the alley, or out of the park."
"I think our first thought is there is no panic at all," said Hoskins, who has two home runs and two doubles in 0-2 or 1-2 counts. "With our approach we've worked on all year, the way we are swinging even though the results may not be there, there is no panic at all. It's gotten into late innings and we just keep grinding away.
"Usually if you take a couple of balls down the middle, you don't get another one. I got away with an at-bat there. I got lucky to see another pitch, and I hit a pretty good pitch."
Philadelphia secured a series win over its cross-state rivals, and looks for a sweep in the finale of the four-game series set for Sunday afternoon.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Holding a one run lead, Nola looked close to being done after a two-out single brought Jordy Mercer to the plate with two out in the seventh. Nola battled as Mercer hit several hard foul balls to both sides of the field. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat -- the 103rd of his afternoon -- Nola struck out Mercer with a changeup in the dirt to preserve a 3-2 lead.
"I don't think I was running on fumes," Nola said. "I think in that at-bat the changeup was the pitch to go with, and it worked."
The Phillies' recent success has been, in large part, due to a rotation that has kept them in games. In each of the last 11 games, Phillies starters have allowed three or less runs in each contest. The rotation has an ERA of 2.34 during the stretch, the longest such streak since 2011, when the rotation went 13 starts without allowing three or fewer runs.
HE SAID IT
"Obviously we had that nice little moment when the crowd cheered and we knew the Sixers won their game. That's cool for all of us in our dugout as well," -- Kapler, acknowledging the Sixers' 106-102 win against Miami in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Phillies will look to sweep their home series against the Pirates in the final game of a four-game set. The Pirates will go with 26-year-old right-hander Trevor Williams, who has been dominant over his first four starts of the year. Williams is coming off his first loss of the season after three straight wins, but the Phillies have been stingy as well, having allowed just three runs over the first three games.