Phillies Begin Homestand on a Win Streak
By Matt Veasey
The Philadelphia Phillies returned from a lengthy road trip to open a homestand against the world champion Kansas City Royals.
On Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies did something in front of their home fans that they had not done in three and a half weeks – they won a game.
The Phillies broke out to a nice lead, and then held on at the end to defeat the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals by a 4-3 final score in front of 30.623 highly entertained fans.
Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, perhaps the single biggest trade chip that the Phils hope to have as contending teams search for reliable, winning rotation depth, was the key to the victory.
Hellickson (6-6) allowed just a single earned run and five hits over six innings pitched, striking out six and walking just one batter. He fired 61 strikes over 97 total pitches.
As he left, the Phillies offense had provided him with a 4-1 lead by scoring single runs in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th frames.
Center fielder Odubel Herrera, one of two Phillies players with a reasonable chance at making the NL All-Star roster when that team is announced in a little more than a week, got things started by bashing the second pitch he saw from Royals’ starter Ian Kennedy over the center field wall.
El Torito’s ninth home run of the year made it a 1-0 game, but the Royals evened it up right away in the top of the 2nd inning.
After Hellickson struck out the first two batters in that Kansas City 2nd, Alcides Escobar doubled and rolled around to score the tying run on a Cheslor Cuthbert single.
The Phils then began chipping away at Kennedy (6-7) slowly. The KC righty would allow three earned runs on six hits over five innings, striking out eight and walking three.
In the top of the 3rd, Herrera drew a one-out walk, stole 2nd base, and scored on a two-out single by Maikel Franco to put the Phillies back in front. In the 5th, Peter Bourjos rapped a one-out single and raced all the way around on a Cody Asche RBI double to make it a 3-1 game.
“I’m seeing more pitches, and I’ve tried to be more selective at home plate,” Franco said per MLB.com contributors. “That’s what’s happening right now. If they don’t want to pitch to you, just take the walk. Just try to be ready for a mistake.”
The Phillies extended the lead in the bottom of the 6th, scoring what would ultimately prove the difference-making run. Cesar Hernandez flipped a one-out single to left, stole 2nd base, and came racing home on a two-out RBI single from Herrera.
After Edubray Ramos set the Royals down in the 7th, manager Pete Mackanin brought in David Hernandez for the 8th inning in what would normally be Hector Neris‘ setup spot.
With Neris having pitched on three straight days in Arizona, and having pitched in more games than any other reliever in baseball, the skipper wanted to give him a break.
Hernandez was signed back in the off-season with the intention of serving as the Phillies closer, but has never been able to earn that role. He didn’t do himself any favors here.
Whit Merrifield led off the 8th by lining a base hit, and then Kendrys Morales crushed a two-run homer into the upper deck in right field to cut the Phillies lead to just 4-3.
Hernandez finished the inning without allowing further damage. Then Jeanmar Gomez, the other Phillies player with a reasonable All-Star shot, came on to retire the Royals in order in the top of the 9th for his 22nd Save of the season, tied for 5th in all of baseball.
The Phillies now hold a four-game winning streak, their first of that length since the club won six in a row at the end of April. In order to continue it, Aaron Nola will have to break out of his recent funk on Saturday night.