In a few years, the Philadelphia Phillies are going to be really good, mostly due to their young pitching rotation. Tonight, that was fully apparent.
Jeremy Hellickson cruised through the Kansas City offense, holding the Royals to one run all evening. The Phillies scratched out just enough offense off of Ian Kennedy, and the bullpen did just enough to hold on late, earning a 4-3 victory to open the three-game set on Friday evening.
Things began optimistic for the Royals, as Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield opened the game with back-to-back singles. However, a double play by Kendrys Morales halted the rally, and Kansas City wound up getting no runs out of the threat. The missed opportunity immediately hurt the Royals, as Odubel Herrera led off the bottom of the first with a homer to put Philadelphia up 1-0.
The Royals came right back in the top of the second, as Alcides Escobar blooped a two-out double down the left field line before Cheslor Cuthbert singled him home. Cuthbert's 21st RBI of the season knotted the score at 1-1.
Philadelphia re-took the lead in the bottom of the third when Kennedy was burned after walking two batters. With two outs, Maikel Franco roped an RBI single to put the Phillies up 2-1. In the fifth inning, Cody Asche whacked an RBI double to extend the lead to 3-1. And in the sixth, Herrera lined a two-out RBI single into center to make it 4-1.
The Kansas City offense looked hapless all evening against the Philadelphia starter. Hellickson, who evened his record at 6-6 with the win, pitched six sharp innings, scattering five hits while striking out six.
The Royals got much better swings against the Phillies bullpen. Escobar opened the seventh with a double, but he was stranded. In the eighth, Merrifield singled before Morales launched a titanic two-run homer into the right-field seats. It was his 12th home run of the year, and it made it a one-run game. However, the Royals failed to net another baserunner for the rest of the night.
Suddenly, Morales is on pace for 25 home runs. Three weeks ago, I tweeted that the Royals might want to look into DFA'ing him. Whoops.
Kennedy took the loss, dropping him to 6-7. The best part about his evening was how he managed to strike out eight batters, but he needed 97 pitches to make it through 5.0 innings. He allowed six hits and three runs while walking three.
The Royals dropped to a dismal 15-26 on the road this season. Their overall record is 42-37. Cleveland won for the 983rd straight day (after 19 innings), so the Royals are now a full 7.0 games back of the Indians. That is their biggest hole in the AL Central standings since July 2014.