PHILADELPHIA -- A team like the Phillies could use a series like this as a real confidence booster.
They beat the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, 7-2, to win the three-game series against the defending World Series champions. The rebuilding Phillies have won seven of their last 10 games. They beat the Royals on Sunday behind a solid effort from Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez and home runs from Cameron Rupp, Cody Asche and Maikel Franco.
"We played really well in San Francisco, really well in Arizona and now really well here," Rupp said. "We've kind of found our groove working on all cylinders. Defensively, offensively and pitching has all been better. We're playing well and having fun."
Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura left the game in the third inning because of a sprained right ankle. He allowed four hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings. Shortstop Alcides Escobar extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
Both Ventura and Royals manager Ned Yost said it was too early to tell if Ventura would be able to make his next start. Ventura said after the game he would know in the next couple of days.
"I thought he didn't make a good pitch on the three-run homer," Yost said. "He elevated it. He came back out in the second inning, and that was better. But then he twisted his ankle and had trouble pushing off in the third inning. Can't really judge much off today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Vinny from Philly: Velasquez gave the Phillies a scare in the first inning, when manager Pete Mackanin, pitching coach Bob McClure and an athletic trainer visited the mound after just five pitches. Velasquez's fastball had hit just 90 mph, which is alarming. But he remained in the game and allowed just five hits, two runs, two walks and struck out seven in six innings. Velasquez's four-seamer improved but averaged just 92.1 mph after it averaged 95.7 mph in his previous start in Arizona.
"My arm was just dragging a little bit," Velasquez said. "I mean, it's coming to the first half of the season, and I also had the injury that I had. And then you're next question is going to be, 'You hit 97 in Arizona, so what happened [today]?' Well, things happen. Everyone has dead arm at some point. But that's the game of baseball. You've got to pitch." More >
Gordon goes yard: Left fielder Alex Gordon got the Royals on the board with a towering two-run homer into the right-field upper deck in the sixth inning, scoring Drew Butera, who had walked. Gordon also singled to lead off the game. Gordon had been just 3-for-17 on the road trip.
"It would have been nice to get those hits in a win," Gordon said. "But [Velasquez] was good. His velocity was kind of up and down. I was expecting 94 and 95, but we got some 91 and 89 early. It was tough to time."
They've got heart: The heart of the Phillies' lineup did damage. Asche, Franco and Rupp went a combined 6-for-12 with three home runs and six RBIs. Rupp crushed a 98-mph fastball from Ventura to right field for a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead, Asche hit a solo homer to right in the third to make it 4-0 and Franco ripped a solo homer to left-center field in the eighth to make it 6-2.
"I'm tempted to play him a lot more," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about Rupp. "That ball he hit to right field was about neck-high, which was nice. He's been concentrating on not missing fastballs up in the zone, which are home run pitches for him, by trying to stay on top of those pitches. It certainly looked like he did that today." More >
First inning fizzle: For the third time in the series, the Royals appeared poised to get a quick jump in the first inning by putting two runners on board. But just like in the first two games, they couldn't deliver a hit with runners in scoring position. This time Gordon singled and Kendrys Morales walked with one out, but Eric Hosmer grounded out and Cheslor Cuthbert struck out.
"We never could get anything going offensively," Yost said. "We had Gordo's two-run homer but not much after and not much before."
"I don't know exactly what's happened. I just know we had it in us. I always felt, even for the first two months, that we were a better hitting team than it showed, and it was kind of an enigma as to why we weren't hitting better. It just took a little time. Now, the guys as a group are starting to hit. It helps when you've got a guy like [Peter] Bourjos, who came out of nowhere up to .270. That's an unbelievable story in itself. I think the other players feed off things like that. You know, it's like, 'Well I can do it, too.' I know that's not a scientific answer, but it's the best I can do." -- Mackanin, on the Phillies' sudden offensive surge
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Velasquez won his seventh game, despite spending half of June on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right biceps. Incredibly, he already surpassed the Phillies' 2015 wins leaders. Cole Hamels, Ken Giles, Aaron Nola and Aaron Harang each finished the season with six wins.
The Royals challenged a safe call in the fourth inning when Ryan Howard attempted to advance from first to third on a bloop single to left. The original call implied that third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert missed tagging Howard. But after two minutes and 29 seconds, the call was overturned as replays showed Cuthbert did make the tag on Howard's shoulder.
HINOJOSA ACTIVATED, OPTIONED
The Phillies activated right-hander Dalier Hinojosa from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Hinojosa has been on the DL since April 29 because of a bruised right hand.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez (7-7, 4.80 ERA) takes the mound Monday at 6:07 p.m. CT as the Royals open a three-game series at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Volquez threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in his last outing Wednesday.
Phillies: Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (5-9, 3.38 ERA) opens a three-game series at 4:05 p.m. ET Monday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eickhoff went 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA in six starts in June.