PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Gibson was able to meet some of his new teammates on Saturday night while he sat in the dugout at PNC Park after arriving shortly before first pitch. But the Phillies received a better introduction in Sunday’s 15-4 win over the Pirates to the pitcher they acquired just before the trade deadline.
Gibson allowed two runs in 6⅔ innings, starting two days after the Phillies acquired him at Friday’s trade deadline to solidify their rotation. He looked the part in his debut as he struck out five and threw a season-high 113 pitches.
“He was good, solid,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “The pitchability is pretty solid with that guy. He can do anything he wants at anytime. He moves the ball around really well. He attacks the strike zone. I think he’s a guy who is going to throw deep into games for us quite often, which is nice.”
The ground-ball pitcher recorded seven of his 20 outs on the ground, using his changeup and cutter to induce weak contact. He ran into trouble in the third after walking pitcher Mitch Keller with two outs and the bases empty. The Pirates rallied, scored a run, but Gibson escaped and retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced.
“Weak contact is something that I try to hunt,” Gibson said. “Yes, I do like getting strikeouts whenever I need them but I try to have early outs and hopefully next time out I can throw a few more strikes. For the most part, I’m pretty happy about it.”
The win moved the Phillies back into second place and within 3½ games of the first-place Mets after the Mets and Braves both lost on Sunday.
Gibson, if he pitches the way he did Sunday, is a strong addition as it gives the Phillies three reliable starters at the top of their rotation. It could get even stronger this month if Zach Eflin can return from a knee injury. They shuffled Matt Moore and Vince Velasquez out this weekend for Ranger Suarez and Chase Anderson, who will simply be tasked with keeping the Phillies in games. The rotation was a problem in July but it could be better in August.
“Those three guys are all innings eaters, they’re going to keep you in ball games, and when they’re on, they’re going to shut guys out,” Realmuto said of Gibson, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler. “That’s what you have to have at the top of the rotation. I don’t know what his deal is but hopefully sooner or later we can slide Eflin in there and have a really good top four.”
It’s hard to find a more steady Phillies player this season than Jean Segura, who drove in three runs and made a terrific diving catch to end the fifth inning. Segura raised his season batting average to .308, which is the best he’s hit since 2016.
Both of Segura’s RBI hits were with two outs as he doubled in two runs in the second and doubled in another in the sixth.
“Those are so important. Those can be backbreakers for the other team,” Girardi said. “When you think you’re out of it and then Jean has a big double. Jean had a fabulous day. He’s played really well.”
Didi Gregorius has struggled at the plate and his defense has not been crisp, yet Girardi still started him Sunday at shortstop despite Gibson’s penchant for inducing ground balls. The decision worked as Gregorius had three hits and drove in two runs with a single in the seventh. Gregorius hit .163 in July and finished the month 0-for-his-last-14. A new month seemed to bring new results.
“New month,” Girardi said. “Get rid of July. Forget July. Concentrate on August. As players, they have to have that ability to turn the page.”
Double or nothing
A group of Phillies hitters got together Sunday morning after the team scored just two runs in the first two games of the series. The hitters felt that maybe they were pressing too much at the plate and trying to do too much when runners were on base.
“We talked today about having fun today and it sounds silly. But just having fun and trying not to put too much pressure on yourself in those situations,” Realmuto said. “It paid off.”
Realmuto went 5-for-6 and the Phils hit a season-high nine doubles, three of which were by Bryce Harper. Segura and Realmuto each had two, and Travis Jankowski and Gregorius each had one. Realmuto tied his career high with five hits.
The Phillies scored nine times in the final three innings as the game got out of hand. The Pirates struggled to throw strikes in the eighth as the Phils walked five times before first baseman John Nogowski pitched the ninth.
“Going forward, we just have to do that more often,” Realmuto said. “It’s not always going to work out like it did today but it was a fun game.”
It’s been more than 35 years since the Phillies had nine doubles in a game. They last accomplished that feat on June 23, 1986, at The Vet against the Cubs. Rich Schu, John Russell, and Glenn Wilson each had two doubles while Mike Schmidt had one as a first baseman. The starting pitcher for the Cubs? It was 23-year-old Jamie Moyer in his second career start.
Ranger Suarez will return to the starting rotation on Monday in Washington against Nationals right-hander Josiah Gray. Suarez, the team’s closer before they added Ian Kennedy from Texas, has not started in the majors since Sept. 30, 2018. The Nationals won two of three this weekend against the Cubs after both teams sold heavily before Friday’s trade deadline. The four-game series is a prime chance for the Phillies to gain ground on the Mets if they can take care of business.