Knock on wood, spill some salt over your shoulder, enact whichever good-luck superstition you have. Because right now, everything is going right for the Phillies' starting rotation.
Through three starts, Ben Lively had experienced the worst results of the group, but he pitched very well Friday night and is showing some interesting signs in his second big-league season.
Lively allowed just one run to the Pirates over six innings, lowering the Phillies rotation's ERA to 2.67 since April 1. In just 19 games this season, the Phils have allowed one or no runs seven times already. Last season, it took 41 games just for them to do it once.
The Phils needed every bit of that run prevention in Friday's 2-1 win. Lively, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris shut the Pirates down, and Odubel Herrera tripled in Cesar Hernandez in the bottom of the eighth to untie the game and make the Phillies 12-7.
They could have given Neris more breathing room, but with runners on the corners and one out in the eighth, both Rhys Hoskins and Herrera were caught stealing on the same play.
Lively has 21 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings, a big surprise given his lack of whiffs in the minors and his rate of 5.3 strikeouts per nine in the majors last season.
As for the rest of the rotation:
• Aaron Nola, who owns the lowest hard-hit contact rate in all of baseball (17.7 percent) looks like one of the best dozen starting pitchers in either league. He also seems poised to reach an even higher level in his fourth season.
• Jake Arrieta showed Cy Young stuff Thursday against the Pirates (see story), and through three starts he's 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA and .180 opponents' batting average. That early-season concern over his lack of swings and misses? Arrieta generated 14 swinging strikes against the Bucs with 10 just against his sinker — the most against his sinker in 56 starts.
• Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, the two wild cards entering the season, have combined for a 1.98 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with 38 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings the last three cycles through the rotation.
"Wild card" is the operative term, because if that duo continues to pitch like this, the Phils will have a legit shot at one.
The strikeouts, the weak contact ... we're not dealing with smoke and mirrors here. We're seeing what happens when aces like Arrieta and Nola meet expectations and young guys like Pivetta and Velasquez execute with more consistency. If Lively can just give the Phils quality starts, look out.
And aside from Arrieta, the rest of the Phillies' rotation will earn just under $2.25 million this season combined. That may be the most important number of all.