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Phillies, Pirates heading in opposite directions

Sportsnaut
Jul 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott (5) and first baseman Rhys Hoskins (right) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Phillies won 4-2 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Philadelphia Phillies each have played 100 games this season, but the cross-state clubs are trending in opposite directions.

The Phillies are in contention for a National League wild-card spot and have won three games in a row and four of their of past five. That success includes the first two games of a four-game series in Pittsburgh.

Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins was the main hero Friday. He was 4-for-4 with three RBIs, two coming on a 10th-inning, two-run homer in a 4-2 win.

However, third baseman Alec Bohm has been perhaps the biggest story in July for the Phillies. He has a career-best 14-game hitting streak after going 2-for-5 Friday and has raised his batting average from .263 at end of June to .296 now. He has batted third the past two games after being sixth or seventh in the lineup.

“Simplicity — I’m not trying to do too much, I guess,” Bohm said. “When I’m getting the ball over the plate, I’m swinging at it. I’ve got my swing working right, and I’m on time more often than not.

“I’m definitely more relaxed. It’s just kind of the baseball season. You’re going to have good stretches, and you’re going to have bad stretches. Right now, I’m having my good stretch.”

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has its eye toward the future with a heavily young lineup. The Pirates have lost five straight and 10 of 12 after blowing a 2-0 lead Friday.

On Saturday, Philadelphia left-hander Ranger Suarez (7-5, 3.84 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (3-7, 4.55).

Keller, 26, appears to be finding consistency in his game after a lot of ups, downs and time relegated to the bullpen. Since returning to the rotation at the end of May, he has given up three earned runs or less in eight of 10 starts.

Sunday against Miami, Keller allowed three runs in six innings, with seven strikeouts, in a no-decision and his third straight quality start.

“I think we’re seeing the next evolution of him as a starter, his ability to execute,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “The one thing that has plagued him in the past has been high pitch-count innings. … I think he’s getting to the point that he’s more consistent, especially since we’ve gone to the sinker.”

All of his repertoire, actually.

“Just using all of my pitches, especially the sinker and the slider,” Keller said. “Using the four-seam here and there early in counts and late in counts for strikes. Just having a good plan going in, attacking the zone, trying to get (outs on) three pitches or less. Trying to get these guys on the ground. Especially the sinker. I think it’s made it a lot easier for me to do that.”

Against the Phillies, Keller is 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in two career starts, with 10 strikeouts and one walk in nine innings.

Suarez also is coming off a no-decision. He pitched five innings Monday against Atlanta, giving up three runs — all unearned — and four hits, with four strikeouts and a walk.

Suarez is 2-0 with 13 1/3 scoreless innings in four games (one start) against Pittsburgh in his career. He has given up seven hits and struck out 11.

–Field Level Media