Kyle Gibson stepped on the mound Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, nine days since his last outing, one day after coming off the bereavement list, and delivered one of the best starts of his 10-year career in the Phillies’ 7-2 win over the Washington Nationals.
The veteran right-hander carried a perfect game into the seventh inning before leadoff batter Victor Robles reached base by being hit by a pitch. The next batter, Luis Garcia, took away a possible no-hitter with a single. When the inning had finished and Gibson’s night was done, he had held the Nationals to two hits and one run in eight innings, with four strikeouts and two hit batsmen in 105 pitches. Prior to Friday night, the longest Gibson had ever carried a perfect game was 4⅔ innings with the Minnesota Twins on June 18, 2014, when he was 26. He’s now 34.
Gibson worked quietly and quickly. Initially, he was overshadowed by the Phillies’ titanic offense, which put up four runs in the first inning, and tacked on two more in the third, all on home runs by Rhys Hoskins, Nick Castellanos, Darick Hall, and J.T. Realmuto. But as the game went deeper into the night, fans started to catch on to what was happening. In the sixth inning, Ildemaro Vargas hit a liner down the third-base line. It looked like it would be a sure base hit, but third baseman Alec Bohm made a diving stop and threw the ball to first from his knees. As he ran off the field, visibly energized by the play, he pointed toward Gibson as if to say, “I’ve got you.” Gibson flashed a smile back.
“As soon as [Bohm] made that play, in my head, I was like, ‘There it is, there’s the marquee play that every no-hitter or perfect game needs,’” Realmuto said. “He threw the ball fantastic.”
The crowd went berserk. And when Garcia hit that single, they gave Gibson a hearty round of applause. As he walked off the field after the top of the eighth inning, he received a standing ovation.
Brad Hand came in for the ninth and allowed one hit, one earned run and one walk, but ultimately got the three outs he needed to secure the Phillies’ 58th win of the season.
It was an emotional outing for Gibson, whose grandmother had recently died. She wasn’t a big sports fan — Gibson said she watched him pitched in person only once or twice, and one of those outings was when he was in high school — but she provided some inspiration for him on the mound on Friday.
“She was a really special woman,” he said. “The one thing she always made sure to let us know was she was always proud of her grandchildren. Whether we were playing baseball or not. She probably would have preferred for me to maybe not play as much baseball, but she was always there to support us.”
Offense shows up big time
Nationals starter Josiah Gray took the mound on Friday with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against the Phillies this season. By the time he exited in the fifth inning, that number had ballooned to 4.50 over three starts.
The Phillies set a tone early. In the end of the first inning, they hit three home runs and a triple to take a comfortable 4-0 lead. That lead grew to 6-0 in the third inning on a two-run homer by Realmuto, the Phillies’ fourth homer of the night.
“He didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” Realmuto said of Gray. “Even after Rhys’s first at-bat, he came straight to me and said the life wasn’t the same tonight on his fastball. The first couple of sliders I saw were looser than they had been from the previous couple of times we faced him. He just didn’t quite have his best stuff tonight and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Kyle Schwarber piled on the home-run bandwagon with his 34th of the year, a 419-foot moon shot to center field. It was the Phillies’ first five-homer game since June 30 against Atlanta.
Castellanos heating up
Castellanos’stwo-run homer to left field in the first inning left his bat at 108.6 mph. It was Castellanos’ second home run in his past three games and one of the right fielder’s three hard-hit balls Friday night. Castellanos is hitting .346/.370/.615 over his last seven games, but more importantly, is starting to flash some power.
Hoskins is also heating up, and so is Realmuto
They say that hitting comes in waves, and luckily for the Phillies, they have multiple hitters who are on hot streaks at the same time. Castellanos, Hoskins and Realmuto are also tearing the cover off the ball. Realmuto was a double short of hitting for the cycle (as if this game needed to flirt with history any more), and Hoskins had a solo home run for his second straight game. Hoskins is hitting .375/.464/.750 over his last seven games, and Realmuto is batting .333/.407/.708 over that span.