It’s been a busy few weeks for Philly sports — so you can be forgiven for sleeping on the Phillies, especially this early in the season.
Afterall, the headlines that resonated the loudest thus far in this young season were laments over the unconventional managierial style of Gabe Kapler, the Phils’ rookie skipper.
But since Kapler was booed in the Phillies home opener three weeks ago, something remarkable has happened. The Phillies have been dominant.
After Sunday’s 3-2 against the Pirates to sweep the four-game set at home, the Phillies have won nine of ten games at home, tying the all-time best franchise start at home with the 2964 Phillies (better known for their legendary collapse down the stretch).
Nick Pivetta allowed a two-run homer to Elias Diaz in the fifth inning to break a 0-0 tie but the pitcher helped his cause with an RBI double in the fifth, later scoring on a sac fly to tie thing sat 2-all.
Lacking many scoring chances, Philly stranded Aaron Altherr in the seventh after the outfielder hit a two-out triple.
But another triple — this one more than an hour later in the bottom of the 11th off the bat of Andrew Knapp, gave Altherr a chance to be the hero — and an RBI-single later the Phillies had their 11th win in their last 13 games.
The Phillies have a seven-game winning streak at home, their best since winning eight at home in 2012.
The team hasn’t just squeeked out wins either. They have been positively dominant. Philly has the best home run differential in baseball so far.
“It’s been fun,” Pivetta said earler in the series. “We break it down pretty good in here.”
Technically, the winning ways in South Philly stretch back to 2017, as the Phils had a 32-18 record at Citizens Bank Park dating back to July 9 of last year.
When looking deeper at the Phils’ successes at home, it starts with the pitching staff — which has been impressive of late. With Jake Arrieta playing a duel role of ace and locker room leader, Kapler says he sees a trickle-down effect.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence with how much preparation has gone into the success of Vinny [Velasquez] and Nick [Pivetta], and I think a lot of that has to do with Jake’s influence,” Kapler said. “I don’t think it’s directly attributable, and I don’t think it’s the only thing, but it’s difficult to ignore.”
Velasquez, Arrieta, Pivetta and Aaron Nola each have an ERA under four, and have pitched very well at home. Arrieta, in his most recent start at home, allowed just one hit while striking out 10 Pirates over seven innings. In all, the Phillies had the fifth best team ERA entering Sunday afternoon’s game and have held opposing hitters to a respectable .229 clip.
More than 130 games remain, as baseball’s 162-game season is a marathon not a sprint — but the Phillies are in the thick of both the NL East race and wild card race. It’s a spot many cautiously optimistic baseball fans thought to be possible with so much youth and potential on the diamond every night.
A much-deserved day off is in the cards next for the Phillies, who will return to The Bank for a three-game set Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Velasquez, Arrieta and Ben Lively will get the starts in the series.