- Associated Press - Sunday, September 17, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Jorge Alfaro is trying to remain stress free as he auditions to become Philadelphia’s starting catcher in 2018.

Alfaro homered and Philadelphia’s relievers pitched six strong innings after a rain delay to lead the Phillies over the Oakland Athletics 5-2 on Saturday night.

“I’m just trying not to put too much pressure on myself, just have fun, compete and help the team,” Alfaro said.

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Acquired as part of the Phillies’ 2015 trade with Texas that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers, Alfaro is batting .317 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 21 games since his call-up Aug. 5 from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

“I really like what I see,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I think he’s going to hit here. I’m most pleased with his game-calling.”

Alfaro has spent this season focusing on becoming a better backstop.

“That’s all I’m thinking about,” he said of his defense.

J.P. Crawford had two RBIs and Cesar Hernandez also drove in a run for the Phillies, who improved to 5-14 against the AL.

Matt Olson and Jed Lowrie homered for Oakland, which lost for just the third time in its last 10.

The game was delayed 1 hour, 46 minutes by rain during the third inning.

Neither started returned following the delay. Philadelphia’s Ben Lively gave up two runs and two hits in three innings while Kendall Graveman allowed one hit in two scoreless innings.

“Both teams have to do it, but we lost a little momentum,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of the delay. “We lost our best starting pitcher, so it didn’t work out well for us. But we didn’t play too terribly well after the delay either.”

Hector Neris pitched the ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances to cap an impressive performance by Philadelphia’s bullpen. Neris gave up a solo shot to Lowrie, but Yacksel Rios, Victor Arano, Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos and Luis Garcia didn’t allow a hit over five scoreless innings.

Arano (1-0) pitched two innings to earn his first major league victory.

Simon Castro (1-3) gave up two runs in two innings.

The Athletics jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second. Olson led off with his 20th homer, a solo shot to right. Boog Powell drove in the other run with a sacrifice fly.

The Phillies got a run back in the third on Hernandez’s two-out RBI single, and they tied it up an inning later on Crawford’s RBI single to right.

Alfaro snapped the tie with a two-run drive to straightaway center that made it 4-2.

“I’m just seeing the ball well,” Alfaro said. “I tried to hit the ball to the gap. I’m just trying to help the team.”

The Phillies tacked on a run in the eighth on Crawford’s sacrifice fly.


Oakland upped its major league-leading total to 116 errors with a pair of miscues. SS Marcus Semien had one error in the third on Freddy Galvis’ hard-hit grounder, and Castro made a two-base error when his pickoff attempt of Galvis got past first baseman Olson.


Many of the Phillies were glued to the television following the game with catcher Cameron Rupp, a University of Texas alum, leading loud cheers for the Longhorns in their game against No. 4 Southern California. Rupp’s target for much of his celebrating was Crawford, who is a California native. Reporters were long gone when USC beat Texas in overtime.


Athletics: Powell came up limping after running into the center-field wall trying to catch Alfaro’s homer, but he was OK after walking it off.


The teams complete the three-game interleague series on Sunday with Philadelphia’s Henderson Alvarez (0-0, 0.00) facing Sean Manaea (10-10, 4.65).


More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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