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Phillies cooled off by D-backs in first big test

Velasquez allows 4 runs in 4 2/3 IP; Altherr notches 2-run double
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans have been cautious, maybe even a little skeptical. They watched the Phillies jump to fast starts each of the previous two seasons. It is easy to understand why the fans have been looking for more proof that their team is as good as they have looked.

The proof did not come Tuesday night in an 8-4 loss to the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans have been cautious, maybe even a little skeptical. They watched the Phillies jump to fast starts each of the previous two seasons. It is easy to understand why the fans have been looking for more proof that their team is as good as they have looked.

The proof did not come Tuesday night in an 8-4 loss to the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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The Phillies were 24-17 in 2016 and 11-9 in '17 only to lose 91 and 96 games, respectively. And even as the Phillies built a 14-7 start this season, the talent differential between this team and those teams is significant and indisputable.

The D-backs entered the series with the best record in the National League. They are the only team the Phillies have played this season that made the postseason last year. They are the Phillies' greatest test to date.

Video: ARI@PHI: Kapler discusses loss to D-backs, Velasquez

"I think we're right up there," said Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings. "I think we're up there with them. You saw their record. You saw ours today. We're kind of right up on their tail there. I don't know what it's going to come down to. I'm not going to make that prediction. I don't know what it's going to be. But I know that we're a solid team."

The Phillies have two more nights to show it. They showed some holes Tuesday, particularly offensively. They struck out 16 times for the second time in five games. They have struck out 227 times this season, putting them on pace to strike out 1,671 times.

They struck out a franchise-record 1,417 times last year.

Video: ARI@PHI: Ray strikes out 11 of the 14 batters he sees

The Phillies have said they do not mind strikeouts because they are seeing a lot pitches and walking a lot.

"Part of working deep counts and seeing a lot of pitches is that you're going to go through stretches where you strike out some," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "That doesn't mean that we don't need to put the ball in play more, we do. It's absolutely a necessity, but sometimes you give credit to the opposing pitcher. [Robbie Ray] has swing-and-miss stuff, he's got a history of striking guys out, and we weren't able to put the ball on the bat as much as we could have tonight."

Velasquez matched Ray early, striking out four batters in the first two innings. But he surrendered back-to-back home runs to Alex Avila and Jarrod Dyson in the third to hand Arizona a 2-0 lead. Avila and Dyson entered the game hitting .114 and .160, respectively.

Video: ARI@PHI: Avila, Dyson swat back-to-back jacks

The Phillies scored three runs in the third to take a 3-2 lead, but Velasquez allowed two more runs in the fifth. He allowed four hits, four runs, two walks and two home runs in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out six.

"This is a good team we're playing," Phillies rookie Scott Kingery said. "I think we're a good team as well. This is definitely a test for us. Unfortunately we didn't come out on top tonight. I think it's going to be a really good series. We're going to find a way to scratch out a few wins."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Phillies center fielder Aaron Altherr doubled to score two runs in the third inning to tie the game, 2-2. Altherr started the season in a terrible slump, but he is 5-for-7 with one walk in his past eight plate appearances. It is an encouraging sign for a hitter who posted an .856 OPS in 412 plate appearances last season.

Video: ARI@PHI: Altherr doubles home a pair in the 3rd

"Altherr continues to have really good at-bats and put the bat on the ball, come up clutch in big situations and working counts and that was a huge positive for us tonight," Kapler said.

SOUND SMART
Kingery is struggling. He struck out four times in four plate appearances. He has two hits in his past 25 at-bats. He has struck out 12 times and walked three times in that span.

"I started swinging at balls in the dirt," Kingery said. "That's always been one of my weaknesses. They're not really throwing me too much. They're starting to work ahead with off-speed and try to get me to chase. So now it's something I'm going to have to adjust back to. I knew this was going to happen. Coming into the season, they probably didn't have much information on me. I didn't have much information on them. You start to see some tendencies and stuff like that. They start attacking areas that you're not strongest in. I'll watch video. More information, seeing a guy more than once, and preparing for him."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The D-backs had a runner on first with no outs in the seventh inning when David Peralta ripped a ground ball to the right of Phillies shortstop Pedro Florimon. Florimon made a fantastic diving catch then flipped the ball to second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who threw to first to complete the double play.

Video: ARI@PHI: Florimon dives to start incredible 6-4-3 DP

HE SAID IT
"The one thing we know is that the league is going to adjust to our hitters, and we trust that Kingery has the ability to adjust back. We're seeing some adjustments made, again, he was really really good early on and he's going to go through a stretch where he scuffles a little bit. It doesn't change our confidence levels in him, in fact they're as high as they ever have been. We know he's going to come back strong, he's going to need to make some adjustments but no doubt in his capability to do so." -- Kapler

UP NEXT
This might be the biggest pitching matchup of the Phillies' season. Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.04 ERA) faces D-backs ace Zack Greinke (2-1, 4.13 ERA) on Wednesday night at 7:05 ET in the second game of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Arrieta struck out 10 and allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings last week against the Pirates.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Altherr, Vince Velasquez

Off-day? Kapler travels to Reading instead

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler could have spent his Monday night at home in Philadelphia, kicking back and enjoying one of the Phillies' very few off-days over the course of a six-month season.

Instead, he made the 90-minute drive to watching Double-A Reading play.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler could have spent his Monday night at home in Philadelphia, kicking back and enjoying one of the Phillies' very few off-days over the course of a six-month season.

Instead, he made the 90-minute drive to watching Double-A Reading play.

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"I thought it was the right thing to do, to support [Reading manager] Greg Legg," Kapler said before Tuesday night's series opener against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park. "Our player development staff is so incredibly invested in what we're doing here and deserve a lot of credit for the start that we've had. Their fingerprints are all over this Major League club, and we're in this together. Player development is an unsung department in an organization, and those guys deserve a lot of love and credit for what's happening here."

Kapler got another opportunity to watch right-hander Seranthony Dominguez, who impressed Kapler in Spring Training. Dominguez, who is the organization's No. 12 prospect, struck out one in one scoreless inning.

Video: TOR@PHI: Dominguez induces a popout to end game

He is 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in seven appearances.

Asked if Dominguez could help the Phillies this season, Kapler said, "He's definitely got the talent. He's definitely got the demeanor. One of the things that I mentioned yesterday as I was watching him is that when we went out for mound visits [in Spring Training], he was completely poised and composed. In some ways, it's similar to the way Scott Kingery's heartbeat is. Very cool, calm and collected. Then to come up and dial up 97 to 98 mph with a nasty slider -- those two things in combination lead me to believe he can make an impact."

But perhaps the greatest highlight of Kapler's jaunt to Reading? A steak dinner at a nearby restaurant.

"An incredible rib-eye, 20 ounces, medium rare," he said, smiling.

Get those righties in there
Kapler loaded up Tuesday's lineup with right-handed bats and switch-hitters, hoping to offset any advantages D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray had against lefties. That meant Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams started on the bench.

Herrera was hit by a pitch as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. He has reached base safely in 24 consecutive games, dating to last season. It is the longest active on-base streak in the Majors.

"We know Odubel has played 15 straight games," Kapler said. "There's this tough left-handed pitcher on the mound. We like the idea of getting a guy a scheduled off-day [Monday] and then giving him one as well -- back-to-back full recovery and tissue repair. Odubel gets right back in there and plays a long stretch of games."

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

Philadelphia Phillies

These are the Top 30 international prospects

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Top 30 International Prospects list

"I found the guy, Al! I found the guy our owner was looking for. He's 15. Come to Venezuela," Eljaua shrieked through the phone.

Avila, who was in Miami at the time, was not pleased to hear the news. The Marlins had never spent more than $30,000 on an international teen.

Top International Prospects

"Are you crazy, Louis? [Owner] John Henry gives us money and you are going to spend it all on your first trip and the first kid you see? Are you trying to get us all fired? What is wrong with you?"

"I know, I know," Eljaua answered. "Just come see the kid. He's good. You won't be sorry."

That kid was Miguel Cabrera. And less than a year later, the teenager signed with the Marlins for $1.8 million to launch his future Hall of Fame career and forever set the standard for international teenage prospects.

The hunt for the next Cabrera continues, and each year an increasing number of prospects sign when the international signing period begins on July 2; hundreds more will join Major League organizations later this summer.

Led by catcher Diego Cartaya -- who like Cabrera is from Maracay, Venezuela -- the players on MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 30 International Prospects list represent the greatest young talent from across the globe eligible to sign on July 2.

The ultimate goal is nabbing a baseball unicorn like Cabrera. But signing a horse like Cartaya, a hard-hitting catcher with advanced skills, or other emerging international prospects also offer teams options.

Video: Top International Prospects: Diego Cartaya, C

Remember, the Cubs traded top teen Gleyber Torres of Venezuela to the Yankees as part of a deal for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, and the rest is World Series history. Last year, they traded the Dominican Republic's Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox in a deal for Jose Quintana. Both are the top prospects in their organizations. Back in '16, the Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada in a package to the White Sox for pitcher Chris Sale. The A's acquired Franklin Barreto from the Blue Jays in a deal for third baseman Josh Donaldson in '14.

"If you are not investing time and money and effort to sign international players, you are missing out on making your organization one of the best in the game," Eljaua said. "Why would you ignore a market and just focus on one or two ways to acquire talent when these guys are going to play in your system, hopefully in the big leagues, or be a part of a package that helps you fill a missing piece? And it's not all about the money and paying the most money. It's about scouting and working and finding out about makeup and helping your entire system."

Who is signing whom
More than 950 prospects have signed during the international signing period that started July 2, 2017, and that number could increase during the 2018-19 period, because there are thousands who have registered to become eligible.

In addition to prospects from traditional baseball hot spots like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the Bahamas, there are also prospects from places like Europe, the Caribbean islands and Asia who have also registered.

Video: Top International Prospects: Marco Luciano, OF

As far as the list is concerned, the Dodgers are the favorites to sign Cartaya. Marco Luciano, a power-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, a close second behind Cartaya in the rankings, is linked to the Giants. Outfielder Misael Urbina of Venezuela, who is ranked No. 3, is an advanced hitter expected to have an above-average hit tool and plus speed. He is linked to the Twins. Rounding out the top five is Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Richard Gallardo, linked to the Cubs, and Orelvis Martinez, a power-hitting shortstop from the D.R. sometimes compared to a young Adrian Beltre. The Blue Jays are the favorite to sign Martinez.

Video: Richard Gallardo named top int'l pitching prospect

Breakdown
This year's Top 30 International Prospects list includes 10 players from Venezuela, 16 from the Dominican Republic, three from Cuba and one from Colombia. The positions break down like this: 11 outfielders, eight infielders, seven pitchers and four catchers.

The best athletes at premium positions are the most appealing to international scouts. Three of the top 13 are catchers and three of the top 10 are pitchers. Shortstops and center fielders are also highly coveted in this year's class.

International signing rules, spending
There are specific guidelines for signing prospects like Cartaya: An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of the next year if he is 17 or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of his contract.

Video: Cartaya tops MLB's international prospects list

The rules for signing international prospects are these: Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,504,500. All other clubs receive $4,983,500.

International amateur free agency & bonus pool money explained

Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

In terms of spending, the Blue Jays, Brewers, D-backs, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Twins and Yankees are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals -- teams that will no longer be in the penalty for exceeding their past international bonus pool spending -- are also expected to be very active.

The A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are in the maximum penalty, so they cannot sign players for more than $300,000 during the upcoming period.

"We are all looking for the next Miguel Cabrera, but I think it's unfair to compare anybody to him because he was just on another level," Eljaua said. "But the reality is, my old team already paid me for that sign. I'm getting paid to find another one. That's what the job is."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Inbox: What's the evidence Santana will hit?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from Phillies fans
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

Is there any reason to believe Carlos Santana will get it going? He's hitting below the Mendoza Line while occupying Rhys Hoskins' natural position. Meanwhile, we have the Hoskins Experiment in left field, perpetuating an already tenuous outfield logjam. I certainly don't envy manager Gabe Kapler's juggling act.
-- Brett L., Broomall, Pa.

There are a lot of reasons to believe Santana will hit.

Is there any reason to believe Carlos Santana will get it going? He's hitting below the Mendoza Line while occupying Rhys Hoskins' natural position. Meanwhile, we have the Hoskins Experiment in left field, perpetuating an already tenuous outfield logjam. I certainly don't envy manager Gabe Kapler's juggling act.
-- Brett L., Broomall, Pa.

There are a lot of reasons to believe Santana will hit.

First, there is his track record. He has a career .364 on-base percentage and an .806 OPS. His 26.5 offensive WAR ranks 24th in the Major Leagues from 2010-18, according to Baseball Reference. Santana has been one of the most productive hitters for a long time. Sure, you can dismiss eight seasons' worth of above-average offense for less than four weeks of performance in 2018, but I would advise against it.

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Second, Santana has been very unlucky. The analytics tell you that. The eye test tells you that, too.

Santana has a 126-point gap between his expected batting average and his batting average, according to Statcast™. It is the largest gap in the Majors (minimum of 50 at-bats), 28 points wider than the next closest player. Expected batting average (xBA) uses Statcast™'s Hit Probability metric, which assigns a percentage on how frequently comparable balls in terms of exit velocity and launch angle are hits. In short, it measures a hitter's quality of contact.

Santana has made a lot of quality contact. His hard-hit rate (51.61 percent) is ninth out of 138 batters (minimum 50 balls in play). Twenty-four of those balls were caught, two more than any other hitter in the Major Leagues. Sixteen of those balls were outs in the air, three more than any other hitter. A look at this spray chart shows that Santana has hit at least seven balls to the warning track or wall in center field.

You cannot hit a ball much better than that.

Let's break it down further. The MLB average on hard-hit balls is .512. Santana is hitting .233, which is the lowest mark out of 118 players (minimum of 20 hard-hit balls). He hit .480 on hard-hit balls in 2015, .527 in '16 and .500 in '17.

If Santana had just eight of those 24 hard-hit outs fall for hits, bringing him in line with last season's .500 average, Santana's batting average jumps to .260. His on-base percentage jumps to .387. And let's say those eight extra hits fall for singles (it's highly unlikely a few would not be doubles or better, but for the sake of argument, let's say singles). Santana's slugging percentage still jumps to .397, giving him a .784 OPS. That would rank fourth on the Phillies.

Does this mean Santana is going to hit better than .300 the rest of the season? No. Does it mean fans complaining about Santana's presence in the lineup or roster should pump the brakes and let the season play out a bit? Yes.

What's been the biggest surprise to you so far?
-- Al C., Philadelphia

The Phillies' rotation has exceeded expectations. It has a 3.01 ERA, which is the best mark in the National League. Teams are slugging just .329 against it, which is the second-best mark in the Major Leagues. Only the Astros have been better (.326). Teams simply have not been barreling many balls against Phils starters. Philadelphia's hard-hit rate (18.84 percent) is the fourth-best mark in the Majors. The Phillies have been striking out batters and not walking nearly as many, either. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.03 is ninth in MLB, after they had a 2.54 mark last season.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Carlos Santana

Schmidt promotes skin-cancer awareness

Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Mike Schmidt has thrown out the first pitch on many occasions for the Phillies since his career ended in 1989.

Odds are, none of them came with an important message like the one being promoted on Sunday afternoon. The Hall of Fame third baseman, who is one of five men to have their numbers retired by the organization, was advocating for a cause close to him -- the fight against skin cancer.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Mike Schmidt has thrown out the first pitch on many occasions for the Phillies since his career ended in 1989.

Odds are, none of them came with an important message like the one being promoted on Sunday afternoon. The Hall of Fame third baseman, who is one of five men to have their numbers retired by the organization, was advocating for a cause close to him -- the fight against skin cancer.

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Video: PIT@PHI: Schmidt tosses out the first pitch

Schmidt was joined by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to celebrate Mike Schmidt RDK Melanoma Awareness Day at Citizens Bank Park. The message that Schmidt and the officials at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center have been stressing is the importance of wearing sunscreen and staying safe in the sun.

A new public service announcement was aired on Phanavision before the game, with Schmidt encouraging fans to use the free sunscreen kiosks around the ballpark, which dispense SPF 30 sunscreen.

Schmidt, 70, battled stage three skin cancer in 2013, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"Take it from me -- someone who spent his entire life in the sun without sunscreen," Schmidt said in the public service announcement. "I paid a heavy price."

Kevin Cooney is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies

Dominguez makes Pipeline Team of the Week

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances in the Minor Leagues from the previous week. Any player on an organization Top 30 Prospects list on our Prospect Watch is eligible.

It's just our second edition of Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week and we already have a pair of repeat performers.

MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances in the Minor Leagues from the previous week. Any player on an organization Top 30 Prospects list on our Prospect Watch is eligible.

It's just our second edition of Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week and we already have a pair of repeat performers.

2018 Prospect Teams of the Week

Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and Orioles lefty Zac Lowther have earned back-to-back honors, with both showing that the South Atlantic League is not so challenging for them thus far. Soto is joined by two other members of our Top 100 and Lowther is accompanied by a fellow member of the 2017 Draft class.  

Here is the latest addition of Prospect Team of the Week, for the week of April 16-22.

C: Austin Allen, San Antonio Missions (Double-A)
(Padres' No. 28 prospect)
6 G, .500/.577/.909, 7 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K

Allen was a two-time PTOW honoree last year in a season that saw him hit 22 homers and slug .497. Those wanting to see if that was a California League mirage should be pleased with his start, as his 11-for-22 week (with five extra-base hits) now has him hitting .373 with a .780 slugging percentage and six homers in the Texas League. He tops the circuit in slugging and OPS (1.202).

Watch: Allen crushes a double

1B: Sam Travis, Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A)
(Red Sox's No. 5 prospect)
6 G, .417/.500/.625, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

Travis had four straight multi-hit games Monday through Thursday, starting with a two-hit performance that included his first home run of the International League season. Even with an 0-for-5 to end the week, he was still able to raise his season slash line to .346/.414/.462.

Watch: Travis ties score with two-run single

2B: David Fletcher, Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A)
(Angels' No. 24 prospect)
6 G, .467/.484/.767, 9 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB

Fletcher nearly made the big league team out of Spring Training and is now hitting like he wants to force his way there. He has a seven-game hitting streak going and has raised his average from .172 on April 11 to .366. Four three-hit games this past week certainly helped and he picked up his first homer of the year while not striking out all week.

Watch: Fletcher doubles as part of four-hit game

3B: Austin Riley, Mississippi Braves (Double-A)
(Braves' No. 8 prospect/MLB No. 97)
6 G, .522/.560/1.043, 5 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K

Riley has historically been a slow starter, but he's trying to reverse that trend in the Southern League in the early going. He led all prospects who can qualify for PTOW with 24 total bases last week and is now tied for second in the league with 14 RBIs and is fourth in OPS (1.190). His .386 average puts him eighth in the circuit.

Watch: Riley crushes third homer of 2018

SS: Brendan Rodgers, Hartford Yard Goats (Double-A)
(Rockies' No. 1 prospect/MLB No. 14)
6 G, .520/.538/.800, 3 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 4 K

When the week began, Rodgers was hitting just .143. Now he's up to .300 after a week that saw him hit in all six games he played in. He kicked things off with a three-hit performance and finished by going 5-for-5 on Sunday, including crushing his third home run of the season. Thanks to the week, Rodgers is now eighth in the Eastern League with his .533 slugging percentage.

Watch: Rodgers homers as part of five-hit day

OF: Calvin Mitchell, West Virginia Power (Class A)
(Pirates' No. 16 prospect)
7 G, .467/.500/.733, 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 6 K

Heading to full-season ball as a high school draftee can be tough, but Mitchell, the Pirates' second-round pick last June, seems to be adjusting just fine. He now has an eight-game hitting streak going and had four multi-hit games this past week. He homered and drove in three runs on Wednesday before going 4-for-4 with four RBIs on Saturday. He's currently fourth in the South Atlantic League in batting average (.364) and OPS (1.070) and fifth in slugging (.652).

OF: Myles Straw, Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-A)
(Astros' No. 21 prospect)
6 G, .520/.581/.680, 5 R, 2 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 3 SB, 4 K

Straw has a six-game hitting streak going, starting last week with a four-hit game and adding a 5-for-5 showing on Saturday. That's pushed his average up over .400 (he's second in the Texas League at .407). He also swiped three bases, giving him a league-leading 11 steals on the season (tied for third in the Minors).

Watch: Straw's four-hit night

OF: Juan Soto, Hagerstown Suns (Class A)
(Nationals' No. 2 prospect/MLB No. 29)
6 G, .391/.481/.739, 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K

Soto showed an innate knack for hitting last year, but also missed most of the season with injuries. He's showing it was no fluke with how he's begun his 2018 campaign back in the South Atlantic League, with four two-hit games this last week. His advanced approach is clearly working, as he leads the SAL with his .486 on-base percentage. Soto's raw power is showing up in games: He tops the circuit in OPS (1.300) and slugging (.814) while his five homers put him in a tie for third. His strong start to the year earned him a promotion to Class A Advanced Potomac of the Carolina League.

Watch: Soto crushes three-run homer

LHP: Zac Lowther, Delmarva Shorebirds (Class A)
(Orioles' No. 17 prospect)
1-1, 0.90 ERA, 2 GS, 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 18 K, 0.60 WHIP

Lowther is back again, even if he did give up some hits and a run. After beginning his year with six no-hit innings, the southpaw followed it up with two five-inning starts. Combined, he now has a ridiculous 31/2 K/BB ratio over his first 16 innings of work in the South Atlantic League to go along with a .094 batting average against and 0.44 WHIP.

RHP: Tony Santillan, Daytona Tortugas (Class A Advanced)
(Reds' No. 5 prospect)
2-0, 0.71 ERA, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0.79 WHIP

Santillan has always had dynamic stuff and he's coming off of a strong full season in the Midwest League. The one thing that has been a bit of a question mark has been his command, but if the start to his Florida State League season is any indication, he's headed in the right direction. After a week that saw him win both decisions, he's now gone at least six innings in three of his four starts this year with a 2.0 BB/9 rate.

RP: Seranthony Dominguez, Reading Fightin Phils (Double-A)
(Phillies' No. 12 prospect)
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.00 WHIP

Dominguez moved to the bullpen for the first time this season and the new role seems to suit him. His past as a starter still lets him go multiple innings, as he had a three-inning, no-hit, six-strikeout game on Wednesday and now has 17 K's (vs. just two walks) in 11 total innings.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

D-backs-Phils only on Facebook Thursday

Both clubs are off to strong starts in 2018
MLB.com

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Thursday's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Thursday's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

How to watch on mobile and desktop

1. Search for "MLB Live" on Facebook

2. Follow the "MLB Live" show page

3. Download the Facebook video app on your TV or streaming device and search for "MLB Live"

4. Or stream the game from your phone to a TV on the same WiFi network by tapping the TV icon.

Upcoming Facebook games (all times ET)
• Thursday, April 26: ARI-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Thursday, May 3: LAD-ARI, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 10: SF-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 16: TEX-SEA, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 24: LAA-TOR, 12:37 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 30: STL-MIL, 1:10 p.m.

Video: MLB Central breaks down the Phillies' great start

What to know about the D-backs-Phillies game

Both the Phillies and D-backs are off to strong starts in 2018. Arizona began the week having won each of its first seven series this season, while the Phillies entered the series against the D-backs with a 9-1 record at home.

Right-hander Ben Lively will start for the Phillies, coming off his best start of the young campaign. Lively held the Pirates to five hits and one run in six innings on Friday.

"I was a lot more controlled," Lively said. "I got texts all week. Even my grandpa [Jim] said, 'Hey, you're rushing.' So I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go slow.'"

Video: SD@ARI: Koch tosses six innings of one-run ball

For Arizona, righty Matt Koch will toe the rubber. He was called up from Triple-A Reno last week to start in place of Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery), and pitched well enough to keep the job for at least one more outing. Koch held the Padres to just two hits and one run over six innings Friday.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Minor League review for April 16-22

Philadelphia Phillies

Players of the Week

Player - SS Arquimedes Gamboa, Clearwater… Gamboa, 20, batted .368 (7-19) with three extra-base hits, two RBI, five walks to one strikeout and posted a 1.132 OPS in five games. Defensively this season, he has committed just one error in 63 total chances at shortstop (16 starts). The Venezuela native was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent on July 17, 2014.

Players of the Week

Player - SS Arquimedes Gamboa, Clearwater… Gamboa, 20, batted .368 (7-19) with three extra-base hits, two RBI, five walks to one strikeout and posted a 1.132 OPS in five games. Defensively this season, he has committed just one error in 63 total chances at shortstop (16 starts). The Venezuela native was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent on July 17, 2014.

Pitcher - LHP Ranger Suarez, Reading … The 22-year-old, who was also named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, posted a 1.20 ERA (2 ER, 15.0 IP) with 12 strikeouts and one win over two starts. He held opponents to a .218 average and did not surrender a walk in either of his outings. Suarez was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent on April 1, 2012.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs - International League North Division… 7-9, 5th place… Offensively, the IronPigs lead the IL with 67 walks.

Top hitting performers - INF Jesmuel Valentin hit .353 (6-17) with a double, home run, three RBI, four runs scored, five walks and led the club with a 1.110 OPS in six games… OF Roman Quinn batted .273 (6-22) and stole three bases over five games. He is now 7-for-8 (87.5%) in stolen base attempts this season, leading the International League in steals… SS Dean Anna went 8-for-23 (.348) with a triple, two RBI, two runs scored and three walks in six games.

Top pitching performers - RHP Enyel De Los Santos earned a win after surrendering two runs (one earned) on five hits over 5.2 innings, while walking two with eight strikeouts in his lone start. He has recorded 22 strikeouts over his first three starts (13.2 IP) of the season… RHP Zach Eflin allowed two runs (one earned) over 5.0 innings, striking out three in his only start… LHP Zac Curtis struck out five and allowed one hit across two scoreless relief appearances (2.2 IP).

Reading Fightin Phils - Eastern League Eastern Division… 7-11, 5th place… Reading's pitchers have recorded 169 strikeouts, which ranks second in the EL.

Top hitting performers - OF Zach Coppola led the team with 10 hits, batting .400 (10-25) with four runs scored, four walks and two stolen bases in seven games. His 11 walks rank tied for fourth in the Eastern League this season… 3B Damek Tomscha hit .333 (7-21) with a double, three RBI, three runs scored and four walks (.440 OBP) over seven contests… OF Jiandido Tromp posted a .435 on-base percentage and batted .316 (6-19) with four walks in six games.

Top pitching performers - LHP Ranger Suarez, who was named Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week as well as Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, went 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA (2 ER, 15.0 IP), 0.80 WHIP (0 BB, 12 H) and struck out 12 over two starts… RHP Seranthony Dominguez retired all 12 batters he faced, recording seven strikeouts in 4.0 innings (two relief outings)… RHP Franklyn Kilome won his lone start, allowing two runs over 5.1 innings with six strikeouts.

Clearwater Threshers - Florida State League North Division… 5-13, 6th place… Offensively, the Threshers lead the FSL with 19 home runs.

Top hitting performers - SS Arquimedes Gamboa, the Phillies Minor League Player of the Week, slashed .368/.500/.632 (7-19) with a double, two triples, two RBI, four runs scored and five walks over five games… OF Jose Pujols hit .300 (6-20) and slugged two home runs with four RBI in five games… OF Adam Haseley went 8-for-27 (.296) with two doubles, three RBI and four runs scored over six contests… INF Jose Gomez batted .300 (6-20) in five games.

Top pitching performers - LHP McKenzie Mills logged a quality start in his only outing, tossing 7.0 innings, while allowing one run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He has posted a 0.88 WHIP in three starts this season… RHP Sixto Sanchez surrendered two runs over 6.0 innings and allowed one walk with five strikeouts in his second start of the season… LHP Jakob Hernandez made two scoreless relief appearances (3.2 IP), allowing one hit, one walk and striking out six.

Lakewood BlueClaws - South Atlantic League Northern Division… 9-9, 5th place… The BlueClaws have posted a 2.66 team ERA, the third-best mark in the SAL.

Top hitting performers - INF Jake Scheiner collected a team-high seven hits, including three doubles and one triple in seven games… 1B Quincy Nieporte batted .273 (6-22) with two doubles and six RBI over six contests.

Top pitching performers - RHP Connor Brogdon went 1-0 and did not allow a run in two starts (11.0 IP). He pitched to a 0.64 WHIP (3 BB, 4 H) and totaled 10 strikeouts… RHP Spencer Howard fanned nine over 5.0 innings in one start, allowed two runs and earned his first win of the season. He now has 22 strikeouts and just one walk this season… LHP Kyle Dohy tossed 4.2 scoreless innings (three relief appearances), striking out eight.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies now 9-1 at home after walk-off sweep

Altherr delivers game-winner; Pivetta extends staff streak to 12 games with 3 ER or fewer
Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr went about two steps out of the batter's box, raised his arms and then waited for the mob to greet him at first base.

This is the way things are going for the Phillies right now. They expect good things to happen at any moment.

View Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr went about two steps out of the batter's box, raised his arms and then waited for the mob to greet him at first base.

This is the way things are going for the Phillies right now. They expect good things to happen at any moment.

View Full Game Coverage

Altherr's one-out single scored Andrew Knapp with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th, and the Phillies completed a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon.

Video: PIT@PHI: Altherr gets walk-off, three hits off bench

The Phillies are now 9-1 at Citizens Bank Park and winners of their past seven at home. The 9-1 mark to start a season at home is the best for the Phils since they started the 1964 season by going 9-1 in their first 10 games at Connie Mack Stadium. Since a 1-4 road trip to start the season, Philadelphia is now 13-3 over its past 16 games. And they are doing it in different ways every day.

"It's a different atmosphere when you are winning," said Altherr, who recorded his his first career walk-off hit. "That's for sure. We'll just try to keep this rolling and we'll keep battling."

The Pirates, meanwhile, have now lost a season-high four straight thanks to the sweep, and have scored just five runs in that stretch.

This one didn't come easy. The Phillies were getting no-hit until the fifth and struggled to generate much offense to support starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. And yet, they were still able to record their first four-game sweep against the Pirates since May 12-15, 1994, at Veterans Stadium.

Video: PIT@PHI: Pivetta strikes out seven, lines RBI double

"This is the proudest day that I've had of our men," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.

With one out in the 11th, Knapp hit a ball to left that kept carrying through the South Philly wind. It eventually hit the chain-link fencing above the extended glove of Pirates left-fielder Corey Dickerson. As the ball rolled back toward the infield, Knapp hustled out a triple, with third-base coach Dusty Wathan giving him a stop sign. Altherr then roped a single through a drawn-in infield for the game-winner.

Video: PIT@PHI: Knapp triples after review in the 11th

On Sunday, Pivetta gave the Phillies another solid outing from a starting pitcher. Pivetta went 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out seven. The only blemish on his afternoon came in the top of the fifth, when he surrendered a two-run homer to Pirates catcher Elias Diaz that briefly gave Pittsburgh the lead.

Two hours later, Altherr would bring Knapp home, with the Phillies finding yet another way to get a win. And as the smoke machine and the strobe lights filled the home clubhouse afterward, it was pretty clear to see how much things have changed.

"I feel really good about our confidence levels right now," Kapler said. "We're having a lot of fun. I think having fun in baseball is really important. It's a long season. Keeping it light -- we laugh in the dugout. I hope you guys are seeing that. A lot of smiles and a lot of laughter, and after the games, we're having a great time in there. We take it seriously and we prepare like animals, but we also enjoy each others' company, and we're laughing a lot and having a lot of fun, and that leads to confidence."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With the Phillies being held hitless by Williams through 4 innings, Pivetta roped a double into the right-field corner that broke up the bid and scored Knapp to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 2-1. Pivetta would then score on a Cesar Hernandez sacrifice fly to left to tie the game.

"I was just trying to get back the two runs that I gave up and give the team a chance to win," Pivetta said. "Dusty gave me the go-ahead and I ran as fast as I can, and got there [on the sacrifice fly.]"

Video: PIT@PHI: Pivetta breaks up no-no with an RBI double

SOUND SMART
Phillies starting pitchers have allowed three runs or fewer in each of their last 12 games. It is the club's longest stretch since a 13-game streak from April 27 to May 11, 2011. Phillies starters have a 2.38 ERA in the 12-game span.

HE SAID IT
"I thought for a second, maybe once I saw the ball ricochet. But I was saying that my legs after 11 innings probably aren't the best. I might have run out of steam." -- Knapp, on possibly attempting an inside-the-park home run in the 11th

UP NEXT
The Phillies have an off-day on Monday before returning to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game set against the D-backs. Vince Velasquez will get the start on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET for Philadelphia against D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray.

Kevin Cooney is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Pivetta

Finally healthy, Hunter 'ready to roll'

Reliever tosses clean 8th in Sunday's 11-inning win
Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The sun was out. The air was warm. And Tommy Hunter -- headband wrapped around his head -- bounced up the steps of the dugout at Citizens Bank Park Sunday morning like a kid on Christmas morning, looking for someone to throw with.

After three weeks, this was his Opening Day. And the 31-year-old reliever was eager to get going after three weeks on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain suffered at the end of Spring Training.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The sun was out. The air was warm. And Tommy Hunter -- headband wrapped around his head -- bounced up the steps of the dugout at Citizens Bank Park Sunday morning like a kid on Christmas morning, looking for someone to throw with.

After three weeks, this was his Opening Day. And the 31-year-old reliever was eager to get going after three weeks on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain suffered at the end of Spring Training.

View Full Game Coverage

"I'm feeling good," Hunter said. "I'm ready to roll and help out a little bit."

Hunter replaced left-hander Hoby Milner, who was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after Saturday's 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hunter looked impressive in his first outing of the season, needing only eight pitches to get through a clean eighth inning during the Phillies' 3-2, 11-inning win over the Pirates Sunday afternoon. He also struck out out Gregory Polanco.

"Tommy came in throwing his cutter to Polanco," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "It looked great."

The return of Hunter comes after two scoreless rehab appearances for Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading, in which he allowed a hit and a walk in 2 1/3 innings with three strikeouts.

"The hamstring is ready to go and I'm ready to roll," Hunter said. "I wouldn't come back if I wasn't ready to go. It's feeling good and I'm ready."

Hunter signed a two-year, $18 million contract with the Phillies during the offseason to help bolster the back end of the bullpen along with fellow vet Pat Neshek, who continues to rehab from a right shoulder strain.

Philadelphia's bullpen has been effective in their absence. It has posted a 3.13 ERA after Sunday's 4 2/3 inning outing. The Phillies 1.15 WHIP out of the bullpen is fourth in the National League and seventh overall in baseball.

Fitting Hunter back into the mix could make for a little bit of a challenge for Kapler -- especially with strong showings from Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano in front of Hector Neris closing.

"I think [they are] relievers we can go to that have [performed well in high leverage situations]" Kapler said. "We have [Luis Garcia], [Adam Morgan] and Neris as the guys coming out of camp who we knew were going to perform in those situations. Now you have Hunter coming back. You've got [Neshek] not that far away. And you have [Yacksel Rios], Arano and Ramos performing like this. It's very encouraging."

However, Hunter said that he comes back into a very good spot.

"Winning solves everything," Hunter said. "These guys are winning and everyone is doing their job. Hopefully, I can just fall in line and be a good little puppet."

Earth Day celebration
There may not be a better patch of earth in Philadelphia than the green grass and finely manicured landscapes around Citizens Bank Park.

On Earth Day, the Phillies continued to encourage global conservation with their Red Goes Green program, which works in partnership with Aramark and Spectra.

The club has offset its carbon footprint of power usage at Citizens Bank Park by purchasing 20 million kilowatt hours of Renewable Energy Credits that match its power output with wind and solar generation at the Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster County, Pa. There are also members of the Red Goes Green team -- presented by Waste Management -- that collect cans and bottles throughout the seating bowl during the game. This also falls in line with the donation to local shelters and soup kitchens of food that has been prepared, but not sold at the ballpark.

Kevin Cooney is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Tommy Hunter

Sanchez among top prospect performers

Rockies' No. 1 racks up five hits, goes deep
MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Sunday.

It was a perfect end to the week for Brendan Rodgers, as the Rockies' No. 1 prospect hit a two-run homer and a double while going 5-for-5 in Double-A Hartford's 11-9 win over Harrisburg.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Sunday.

It was a perfect end to the week for Brendan Rodgers, as the Rockies' No. 1 prospect hit a two-run homer and a double while going 5-for-5 in Double-A Hartford's 11-9 win over Harrisburg.

Rodgers, MLB Pipeline's No. 14 overall prospect, singled in his first two at-bats before connecting on a home run to left field, his third homer this season, in the bottom of the fourth inning. He added his third single of the contest in his next at-bat and then capped his big game with an RBI double as part of Hartford's four-run eighth inning.

The five-hit game was the third in Rodgers' career. The 21-year-old shortstop previously accomplished the feat with Class A Advanced Lancaster (June 9, 2017) and Rookie-level Grand Junction (July 12, 2015). It also extended Rodgers' hitting streak to six games, during which he's lifted his batting average from .143 to .300.

Rodgers homers on five-hit day

Fellow Rockies prospects Garrett Hampson (No. 7) and Yonathan Daza (No. 20) also collected multiple hits and plated a run in the Yard Goats' victory, while Brain Mundell (No. 18) connected on his first home run in a 2-for-5 performance.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Sunday

No. 2 overall prospect Ronald Acuna (Braves' No. 1) extended his hitting streak to five games with a 3-for-6 effort for Triple-A Gwinnett. The three hits were a season high for the 20-year-old phenom, who has lifted his average from .139 to .217, while also scoring five runs, during his current streak.

Video: Top Prospects: Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves

No. 22 overall prospect Willy Adames' (Rays' No. 2) first home run of the season was a big one, as the 22-year-old shortstop connected on a second-inning grand slam in Triple-A Durham's rout of Lehigh Valley. It was the fourth straight game in which Adames tallied at least one hit and one RBI.

Adames' grand slam

No. 26 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez (Phillies' No. 1) was a tough-luck loser for Class A Advanced Clearwater despite tossing six innings of two-run ball. The 19-year-old right-hander, making his second start this season, scattered six hits, walked one and struck out five in the performance, throwing 63 of his 83 pitches for strikes.

No. 36 overall prospect Luis Urias (Padres' No. 3) filled out the stat sheet, tallying two hits, three runs, two RBIs and two walks in Triple-A El Paso's win over Las Vegas. The 20-year-old second baseman began his day with a two-run home run, his second this season, and went on to reach base three more times to finish 2-for-3. It was the second straight two-hit game for Urias.

Video: Top Prospects: Luis Urias, 2B, Padres

No. 68 overall prospect Fernando Romero (Twins' No. 2) was dominant for Triple-A Rochester, tossing 6 2/3 innings of one-run, two-hit ball with 10 strikeouts in a loss against Columbus. A 23-year-old right-hander, Romero is still in search of his first 2018 win but owns a 1.69 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 16 innings across his three starts.

Romero fans his 10th batter

Dodgers No. 15 prospect Connor Wong capped his week just as he did the last one -- by hitting a pair of home runs for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. The 2017 third-rounder connected on a two-run shot in the first inning and added a solo shot in the sixth, giving Wong eight home runs (as well as eight multi-hit performances) in his first 12 games. He also had an RBI single in the ninth for a total of four RBIs on the day.

Mets No. 14 prospect Anthony Kay -- a first-round Draft pick in 2016 who missed all of '17 while recovering from Tommy John surgery -- picked up his first professional win behind six scoreless innings for Class A Columbia. The 23-year-old lefty threw 59 of his 92 pitches for strikes, as he allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five to lead the Fireflies past Hickory, 5-0. Kay has pitched well to begin the season, logging a 1.69 ERA across his first 16 innings (three starts) as a pro.

Kay picks up his fifth strikeout

Nationals No. 9 prospect Daniel Johnson enjoyed his best offensive performance of the season, going 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and three runs as Double-A Harrisburg fell to Hartford, 11-9. The home run, a solo shot in the second inning, was the first this season for the Senators' leadoff man. In 2017, Johnson, 22, was one of 10 Minor Leaguers to finish with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, tallying 22 in each category.

Video: Top Prospects: Daniel Johnson, OF, Nationals

Orioles No. 17 prospect Zac Lowther recorded double-digit strikeouts for the second time in three starts for Class A Delmarva. After striking out 13 and seven batters in his first two starts, respectively, the 21-year-old lefty fanned 11 batters in five innings Sunday while allowing one earned run on two hits and one walk. All together, Lowther has punched out 31 batters and allowed just five hits in 16 innings this season.

Reds No. 6 prospect Tony Santillan allowed his first earned run of the season in his fourth start for Class A Advanced Daytona, a 5-1 win against Dunedin. Working 6 2/3 frames, the 21-year-old right-hander yielded six hits and a walk while striking out six. He also induced eight ground-ball outs in the outing while throwing 57 of 87 pitches for strikes. He's 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and a 24-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 2/3 innings on the season.

Red Sox No. 12 prospect Bobby Dalbec belted a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning that powered Class A Advanced Salem to a 6-4 win over Winston-Salem. The home run, Dalbec's fifth this season, capped a two-hit, four-RBI game for the 22-year-old third baseman, who had doubled earlier in the contest. He's produced a .923 OPS with 10 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 17 games.

Dalbec's extra-inning homer

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Nola dazzles, Hoskins muscles up in win

Starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games
Special to MLB.com

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."

View Full Game Coverage

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."

View Full Game Coverage

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.

Video: PIT@PHI: Nola fans nine over seven strong innings

"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.

Video: PIT@PHI: Santana gets HBP on overturned call in 6th

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.

Video: PIT@PHI: Herrera reaches base for 22nd straight game

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."

SOUND SMART
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.

UP NEXT
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.

Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com and is based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Rhys Hoskins