PHILADELPHIA - J.P. Crawford clapped his hands as the baseball rolled into right field in the seventh inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.He had every reason to be excited.Crawford not only ripped a two-out single to score the go-ahead run in a 6-1 victory over the Reds, he had
PHILADELPHIA - J.P. Crawford clapped his hands as the baseball rolled into right field in the seventh inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
He had every reason to be excited.
Crawford not only ripped a two-out single to score the go-ahead run in a 6-1 victory over the Reds, he had something to show for his hard work in the batting cage the past few days. Crawford had been hitless in his last 18 at-bats, with just one hit in 25 at-bats this season, before singling against Reds reliever Jared Hughes.
Soon after, teammate Scott Kingery crushed his first Major League grand slam to left field in the eighth inning to turn a nail-biter into a rout. Kingery, unlike Crawford, has been hitting the ball hard this season. He has been pushing for more and more playing time, too.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"J.P. had the biggest hit of the night, and that's kind of what did it for us," Kingery said. "It got the dugout all fired up and helped us close out that game."
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has been asked countless times this season about finding enough playing time for everybody. It is a very real challenge that could become trickier and trickier in the coming weeks. Kingery and Maikel Franco are swinging hot bats. Crawford is not, but the Phillies also have plenty invested in the talented shortstop.
Can Kapler balance the need to put the best lineup on the field, giving his team the best chance to win, while also making sure he helps somebody like Crawford develop and break out of a slump?
"We've said that it's kind of like a puzzle," Kapler said. "We need to get everybody their reps. We've got a lot of good players and not enough positions, right? Not enough lineup spots. A lot of it is about making everything work and finding the right spots to insert maybe not the guy that's hot, but the guy that needs the reps at the time. We're balancing a lot of things there. We're going to respect the fact that Frankie is swinging the bat well, and now J.P.'s gotten a big hit, we're going to respect that as well."
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola is earning plenty of respect. He dominated the Reds, allowing just three hits, one run, three walks and striking out six in eight innings. He threw 103 pitches. It is the first time a Phillies starter has pitched eight innings since Ben Lively on Sept. 10, 2017, in Washington.
Nola has a 2.04 ERA in his last 12 starts at home.
"I like pitching here," Nola said. "It's good to be back home to pitch. The last three or four starts in Spring Training were on the road, and my last two to start the season were on the road. It's just good to be back."
It would be good to get Crawford rolling, too.
"I've been getting around the ball instead of sticking through it," Crawford said about his slow start.
Who identified that?
"Everyone," said Crawford, who hit his hardest ball of the season in the third, a 100.3 mph lineout to left. "That causes weak contact. I probably hit one ball on the barrel this whole season. Hitting balls on the barrel today feels good. It's a confidence booster and hopefully it will carry on."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hamilton walks, runs, scores: Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton had a career .298 on-base percentage entering the night, but he walked on four pitches with two outs in the fifth inning. He stole second base, then scored on Jesse Winker's single to right-center field to hand the Reds a 1-0 lead.
"For sure, you know that guy's going to steal, he's the fastest guy in the league," Nola said, when asked if the walk to Hamilton bothered him. "You really just have to try to keep that guy off the bases, because you know he's going to do something on the basepaths."
Hail, Cesar:Cesar Hernandez snapped Homer Bailey's no-hit bid with one out in the sixth inning, when he ripped a 3-1 fastball to right field for a single. The ball was clocked at 104.8 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball in the game to that point. Hernandez stole second base with two outs, then scored on Odubel Herrera's double to the right-field wall to tie the game, 1-1.
"Does anything phase this kid? It's unbelievable. Biggest moment, big stage, looking for a pitch to drive down in the zone. He's really good at that and got on a [slider] and there we go. Pretty special." -- Kapler, on Kingery
"It's pretty cool. I mean, you know, when that inning started, I didn't think that was going to be a possibility, but I had to treat it like any other AB. The bases were loaded, and I figured he didn't want to walk a run home, so I thought he was going to come around the zone with something. I didn't necessarily know if it was going to be a fastball or off-speed, but I just put a good swing on it." -- Kingery, on his grand slam against Reds reliever Tanner Rainey, who was making his Major League debut. He hit a 0-1 slider down the middle of the plate.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Phillies improved to 5-5. If they win Wednesday night's series finale to sweep the Reds, they will have a winning record through the first 11 games of the season for the first time since they were 8-3 in 2011.
LET THEM HIT, LET HIM PITCH
Kapler said he did not consider pinch-hitting for Crawford or Nola with two outs in the seventh inning. He said he liked Crawford's previous at-bats. He said he wanted Nola to continue to pitch.
"That's the feel for the game, that's the gut that comes into this thing," Kapler said about sticking with Nola. "He just looked good out there. It seemed every inning he ran out to the mound he got stronger. This was the time we were going to ride him."
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (1-0, 2.79 ERA) pitches Wednesday night's series finale at 7:05 ET against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are high on Pivetta's potential, and he showed why in Thursday's victory over the Marlins. He allowed four hits and struck out nine in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
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.