ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There are no victory cigars in Gabe Kapler’s office. No, Brother Gabe had a coffee-scented candle burning on his desk after his Phillies pummeled the Tampa Bays Rays for their fifth win in a row and seventh in the last eight games Saturday night at Tropicana Field.
While the candle was pleasing to the manager’s olfactory sensations, it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as what his eyes saw over the previous three hours, especially in the second inning when the Phillies jumped Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer for six runs en route to a 9-4 win (see first take).
“It's difficult to square a guy like Archer up consistently any time, let alone have it all come in one big inning,” Kapler said. “Up and down the lineup, we had contributions and a lot of loud contact. Our guys did a good job getting hits with two strikes. Guys did a good job of putting the barrel on the ball and we were able to have a big inning.”
Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta approved of the big inning. It helped him cruise to his first win with his new club.
“Being able to put up a six-spot on a guy like Archer who has tremendous stuff in his home ballpark,” Arrieta said. “The potential of this offense is what we’re showing right now.
“Now we’ve got a chance for another sweep. Back-to-back sweeps and seven of eight, five in a row — we’re feeling pretty good, as we should, and this is the type of environment that we want to have consistently in this clubhouse. We’re having a blast.”
Arrieta went 6 2/3 innings in his second start with the Phils. He didn’t have blow-away stuff — he got a swing and miss on just four of 88 pitches — but was economical with his pitches and had good sink. He got 14 outs on ground balls.
“My put-away stuff needs to get a little more refined,” Arrieta admitted. “That will come.”
The Phillies are 8-5. Their starting pitchers have recorded a stingy 2.69 ERA over the last 10 games. Eight of those games have been against Miami, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, three of the worst teams in the majors. Those teams entered Saturday with a combined eight wins and ranked in the bottom six in the majors in OPS.
Are the Phillies’ starters this good or are they feasting on poor lineups?
“I think it has much more to do with our pitchers executing their pitches,” Kapler said. “Our guys have the kind of stuff that will match up well against anybody in baseball. So I would lean toward our guys just have natural stuff and ability and the ability to execute.”
Rookies J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery both had a big night. Kingery had a pair of RBI doubles and Crawford stroked an RBI double and a booming solo homer to right. Both of Crawford’s hits came on two-strike sliders against Archer, whose ERA after four starts is 7.84. There's nothing sweet smelling about that.