NEW YORK — The conditions, rainy and blustery, were miserable for baseball, but they really weren't an issue for Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. He was raised in Victoria, British Columbia so ...
"I grew up in this stuff," the 24-year-old, rookie right-hander said. "It didn't affect me."
What affected him was something that has plagued a cast of young Phillies pitchers this season — too many pitches over the middle of the plate.
"He threw strikes but not quality strikes," manager Pete Mackanin said after his team's 6-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday night (see observations). "Too many bad pitches."
The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning after a 57-minute rain delay.
Some might have called it a mercy killing, but Mackanin wouldn't go there. He had just seen his team rally for three runs in the top of the sixth, two on a laser-beam home run by rookie Nick Williams, his ninth of the season, to cut the Mets' early lead in half, and would like to have seen what his club could have done in the late innings. But with no end to the bad weather in sight, and two also-rans on the field, the umpires didn't have much urgency to hang around into the wee hours of the morning to go the full nine.
"It's a shame we got banged because we started mounting a comeback," Mackanin said. "But it is what it is."
The Mets ended up taking two of three from the Phillies and have won 18 of the last 21 series between the two teams. The Mets are 37-17 against the Phils since the start of the 2015 season.
The Phils found themselves in an early hole when Pivetta was tagged for three runs in the first inning. In all, he gave up 10 hits and six runs in five innings of work. He threw 111 pitches — too many, but that's been a common bugaboo for the Phillies' young starting staff.
Pivetta made two mistake pitches in that first inning — a loopy, hanging curveball that Asdrubal Cabrera stroked for an RBI single and a middle-in fastball that Travis d'Arnaud hit for a two-run homer.
"I've got to limit mistakes," Pivetta said. "I can't miss up in the zone. When I'm ahead in the count, I can't throw a hanging breaking ball to Cabrera where he smacks it. I can't throw an inside fastball to d'Arnaud, don't miss in and he puts a good swing on it. Those mistakes are on me and I own up to those mistakes, but at the end of the day they're mistakes."
Pivetta has shown flashes of brilliance this season. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball against these same Mets on July 2. He struck out 11 Padres and 10 Cardinals in a pair of starts. And, of course, he was brilliant during his time at Triple A. There's something there. It just needs refinement. In a perfect world, Pivetta would have had more time at Triple A this season. But he was pressed into duty in the big leagues and has a 6.49 ERA in 22 starts.
It's all been a learning experience.
"I know it's frustrating, especially for the team, when I go out there and give up six runs," Pivetta said. "But I don't think it's anything to panic about. I don't want to panic because I'm young. I hate saying it, but I'm young. There's a lot of good things I can build on."
Mackanin believes Pivetta will be better for his struggles. And he believes the pitcher has big upside.
"He has an above-average fastball with good life and good movement," Mackanin said. "He has a good curveball and a pretty good slider. He's developing a changeup. But, once again, it's all about commanding those pitches. Once you get to that point where you can command your pitches, that will make you a successful pitcher."
Pivetta has four starts remaining before the end of the season. Four more chances to learn.
"I'm not going to let it beat me up," Pivetta said. "I've still got four starts until the end of the season. My plan is to go out there next time, throw a good game and hopefully build on that. That's just where I'm at right now."