PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler said Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park that this Phillies-Braves series at the end of May is just like any other series over the course of a six-month season. Each one is important.But Kapler felt differently following Monday night's 3-0 victory, which moved the Phillies within
PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler said Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park that this Phillies-Braves series at the end of May is just like any other series over the course of a six-month season. Each one is important.
But Kapler felt differently following Monday night's 3-0 victory, which moved the Phillies within a half-game of the first-place Braves in the National League East. It was the first time since September 2011 that the Phillies and an NL East opponent faced each other at the Bank with both teams at least eight games over .500.
"I think it makes your heart beat a little faster in the dugout," Kapler said. "As a fan of baseball, as a fan of the sport, it's nice to see two teams with really rich histories and amazing fans and a rich history of winning competing for first place in the National League East. I'm a baseball fan at heart, and thinking about that gives me goose bumps."
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta got Kapler's blood pumping. Pivetta allowed just four hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings, striking out seven. Since allowing six runs in one-plus inning May 4 in Washington, Pivetta has a 0.43 ERA (one run in 19 innings) over three starts. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks and has struck out 25 in that span.
Remove that start in D.C. and Pivetta's season ERA drops from 3.23 to 2.25.
"I think it's not trying to get too high or too low, [just] trying to stay consistent and where I need to be," Pivetta said. "Games like Washington are going to happen. It's really what you do after that when you're really going to find yourself. It's just going out there, 'What do I need to do?' Having fun in the game still. We're winning, playing great, just build off the energy that we have going on in here. It makes my life a lot easier. I don't have to think about a lot of things."
Nick Williams hit an opposite-field solo home run in the fourth inning to make it 1-0. After Scott Kingery bunted for a hit in the seventh, Aaron Altherr followed with a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the seventh to make it 3-0.
Williams and Altherr have been battling for playing time in right field this season. Williams has started four of the last six games.
"I don't think it's a problem," Williams said. "As long as we're doing our part and producing for the team, then everyone's going to be smiling and happy. I hit a homer today and then he hit that homer and to be honest, I went crazy. I kind of called it too, I'm not going to lie."
Did he call it out loud?
"I told [Zach] Eflin that a homer would be great right now, but Kingery's on first and he can run so a double would be nice, too," Williams said. "But then I was like, 'Nah, nah, scratch that. It's a triple or home run.' The pitch was thrown and I saw the spin and I said homer. Pow. Homer. I went crazy. I didn't even see where it landed because I went crazy."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jorge Alfaro showed off his arm on back-to-back plays in the seventh inning. First, he caught Johan Camargo stealing second base for the inning's second out. Statcast™ tracked Alfaro's throw at 88.3 mph. He then fielded a Dansby Swanson roller in front of the plate, spun and threw to first to end the inning. Statcast™ tracked that throw at 80.1 mph.
Later, Alfaro threw out Ender Inciarte on an attempted bunt to end the game, giving Hector Neris his ninth save of the season.
• Alfaro demonstrates incredible arm on 3 sweet plays
"I don't know if there's another catcher that I've ever seen -- and I played with Pudge -- that makes that play in the ninth inning," Kapler said. "He is spectacularly talented, spectacularly athletic, incredibly durable. He's starting to look like a guy who is going to be a fixture in our lineup for a long time."
Phillies right-hander Seranthony Dominguez allowed a one-out single to Ozzie Albies in the eighth inning. It was the first hit or walk Dominguez had allowed in seven appearances. He was the first reliever in the Majors since at least 1908 to not allow a hit or walk in six consecutive appearances to start a career.
"Seranthony, wow," Kapler said. "He basically is coming onto our team and looking like a guy who could go through left and right and do so with some degree of dominance. Really impressive. Obviously, we have [Adam Morgan] out there ready for [lefties Freddie] Freeman and [Nick] Markakis. But we just have that feeling in our gut that Seranthony can get out basically anybody. We believe that right now. He's riding pretty high."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Altherr's homer was the second pinch-hit home run of his career. The ball left Altherr's bat at 107.4 mph and it travelled a projected 388 feet.
HE SAID IT
"I think our last series of the year is against the Braves. That'll be interesting to see if we can both be in it at that time, too." -- Altherr
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Umpires took a quick look at the final play of the game, when Inciarte bunted a ball in front of home plate and Alfaro picked it up and fired a throw to first. Replay showed that Alfaro's throw definitely beat him to the bag.
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (4-4, 4.37 ERA) faces Braves right-hander Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 5.05 ERA) in the second game of this three-game series Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez has been a different man recently. He has a 2.08 ERA in three starts this month, striking out 21 and walking seven in 17 1/3 innings.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.