Miami Marlins

Jake Arrieta's expectations for his 2nd start

Jake Arrieta's expectations for his 2nd start

Though his Phillies debut lasted all of four innings, it went mostly according to plan for Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta and manager Gabe Kapler had settled on a pitch count of about 75 for Sunday against the Marlins and Arrieta ended with 74 pitches over four innings. 

Entering the fourth, he was at 64 pitches and knew he didn't have many left to play with.

"After the third, I knew I was working with about 10 pitches and I told Kap, 'I'll get through it in 10 pitches or less,'" Arrieta said.

Jake-stradamus over here. He needed exactly 10 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 fourth inning and finish his day by retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, five via strikeout (see Arrieta observations).

In his next start — slated for next Saturday at Tampa Bay — Arrieta expects to throw 85 to 90 pitches. 

"Just based on what you saw with Vince (Velasquez's) pitch count, I think he was in the 90s in his second start," Arrieta said. "It's kind of the natural progression, being delayed (in spring training) a little bit. Anywhere from 85 to 90 would be pretty ideal next time out."

Next time out, Arrieta is focused on finding his rhythm earlier. He threw 32 pitches and allowed all three of his runs in a stressful (and unlucky) first inning. Some of the damage was self-inflicted. Arrieta missed a spot in serving up a home run to Miguel Rojas, then yanked some sinkers low-and-away to walk the typically undisciplined Starlin Castro. 

Why was he unlucky? Because a would-be Justin Bour double-play ball was instead an infield hit because of the shift. Two batters later, Andrew Knapp was called for catcher's interference on a 2-2, two-out count to overmatched Lewis Brinson. The Marlins' rally culminated in a lucky duck-snort over third base that plated two runs in an eventual 6-3 Phils loss.

"Erratic in the first, obviously. Was just maybe a little too giddy," he said.

First-inning struggles are a common theme among elite starting pitchers throughout baseball history. Get them early or don't get them at all, is how the saying goes.

Yet Arrieta, from 2014 to 2016, was utterly dominant in the first inning of games. He held his opponents to a .178 batting average and had a sparkling 2.02 ERA.

Last season, that changed. He had a 5.10 ERA and .291 opponents' batting average in the first inning, his highest marks for any inning.

"Today, I had a couple three-ball counts in the first inning and that's obviously something you're trying to avoid to set the tone and also keep the pitch count down," Arrieta said. "Moving forward, you want to put up a goose-egg in the first to set the tone for the ballclub. That's something I definitely look forward to working on."

After 20-run rampage, poor catching dooms Phillies in loss

After 20-run rampage, poor catching dooms Phillies in loss

BOX SCORE

Though it lasted only four innings, Jake Arrieta's debut was the main storyline in the Phillies' series finale Sunday against the Marlins.

Arrieta struggled in the first but was money after that, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, five via strikeout (see Arrieta observations).

The Phillies, however, failed to score after Arrieta exited.

Other important developments from the Phils' 6-3 loss to lowly Miami:

Miscues behind the plate
It could be argued that at least three of the Marlins' six runs were a result of subpar defense from Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp. 

Knapp was called for catcher's interference on a two-out, two-strike count in Arrieta's first inning. It loaded the bases and led to a two-run single.

With the game tied in the eighth inning and Adam Morgan on the mound, Knapp had a key passed ball that allowed runners on first and second to advance a base. Two pitches later, Brian Anderson delivered the game-winning two-run double.

Luis Garcia, who began the eighth with a hit batsman and a walk, was charged for both runs and the loss.

Catchers are given an error on catcher's interference calls, so Phillies backstops now have five errors in just eight games. Every other catcher in the National League combined has six. 

In seven of his 11 seasons with the Phillies, Carlos Ruiz was not called for any catcher's interferences.

Rhys the Robot
Rhys Hoskins is a machine. He reached base three more times Sunday and is hitting .440/.559/.760 so far this season. His batting average and OBP both lead the majors; his .760 SLG is third.

Hoskins has reached base 19 times in 34 plate appearances and has five doubles, a homer and as many walks (7) as strikeouts.

Paul Goldschmidt Jr., ladies and gentlemen.

Too bold on the basepaths?
Both Hoskins and Pedro Florimon were caught stealing, with Hoskins being nailed by the pitcher after leaving second base early.

The Phillies have attempted 13 stolen bases, tied with the Nationals for most in the majors. They're tied for second in MLB with nine successful steals but have also been caught more than all but two teams.

The Marlins are sooooooo bad
Can this Miami team win 50 games? Not even an exaggeratory question.

Despite Sunday's Marlins win, just look at the team they fielded this weekend against the Phillies. Only one player on the active roster has ever hit .300 in a full season (Starlin Castro). Not one has ever hit more than 25 home runs in a season. 

And the three Marlins starting pitchers the Phillies faced? They had a combined 11 starts entering the series and allowed 15 earned runs in 9⅔ innings for a 13.97 ERA.

The worst record in MLB history for a team that played 162 games belongs to the 2003 Tigers (43-119). Keep that in the back of your head.

Crawford's struggles continue
J.P. Crawford is pretty much an automatic out at the bottom of the Phillies' lineup right now. After four more ugly at-bats, Crawford is 1 for 23 (.043) on the season with one walk and eight strikeouts.

If this continues — and it's not just the numbers, it's Crawford's approach and swing — it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Phillies eventually sent him back to Triple A to rebuild some confidence. They could start Scott Kingery and Florimon at shortstop in the meantime.

Up next
The Phillies (3-5) host the Reds (2-6), another NL cellar-dweller, for three games.

• On Monday, Ben Lively opposes lefty Cody Reed.

• On Tuesday, Aaron Nola faces Homer Bailey.

• On Wednesday, it's Nick Pivetta vs. Luis Castillo.

5 observations from Jake Arrieta's Phillies debut

5 observations from Jake Arrieta's Phillies debut

Presented with the most ideal matchup possible, Jake Arrieta was effective but not his best self in his Phillies debut Sunday.

He allowed three runs — all in the first inning — and struggled with control before a strong bounceback.

Some observations from his first start (4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K):

Velocity
One of the primary topics regarding Arrieta this winter. His velocity dipped last season to a career-low 92.1 mph after sitting just below 94.0 the previous four years.

In his Phils debut, nearly every one of Arrieta's sinking fastballs in the first inning was between 92 and 93 mph. He also hit 94 mph three times. 

From there, it dipped to mostly 90 and 91.

On the afternoon, Arrieta's sinker averaged 91.7 mph and maxed out at 94.0. Last season, Arrieta's sinker averaged 92.0 mph in his first start and maxed out at 93.6.

Shaky first inning
Arrieta threw 32 pitches in a three-run first. The second batter he faced, Miguel Rojas, took him deep to left field. Rojas has 874 career plate appearances and no more than one homer in any season.

Of Arrieta's 32 pitches in the first, none generated a swing-and-miss. His control was not crisp, with plenty of sinkers and sliders being yanked low-and-away to right-handed hitters. 

Still, Arrieta was unlucky in his first inning as a Phillie. A would-be Justin Bour double-play ball was instead an infield hit because of a shift.

Lewis Brinson then loaded the bases with two outs and two strikes on catcher's interference. A batter later, Braxton Lee singled in two runs with an opposite-field bloop just over the third baseman's head.

Arrieta was tremendous in the first inning from 2014-16 but it was his worst inning last season.

He had a 5.10 ERA and .291 opponents' batting average in the first inning in 2017 compared to a 3.19 ERA and .222 clip in all other frames.

Settling in
After the first, Arrieta cruised. He retired 10 of the next 11 batters, five on strikeouts.

He averaged 14 pitches per inning after the first.

Arrieta induced just five swinging strikes on 75 pitches, a very low rate of 6.7 percent. That figure should improve.

Run support
The Phillies rallied back to tie the game at 3-3 to take Arrieta off the hook.

In his four full seasons with the Cubs, Arrieta was 18-8 with a 2.85 ERA when provided at least three runs of support.

What's next
Arrieta pitches again next Saturday at Tampa. Expect him to reach 85 to 90 pitches in that one.

Interleague games in American League parks are always more challenging because of the designated hitter, but Arrieta excelled against the AL while with the Cubs, going 12-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 19 starts.