Phillies

How patient can the win-now Phillies afford to be with struggling Nick Pivetta?

How patient can the win-now Phillies afford to be with struggling Nick Pivetta?

When the Phillies set up their pitching rotation coming into the season, they slotted Nick Pivetta in the No. 2 spot in front of Jake Arrieta, a veteran and former Cy Young Award winner. The stated reason for the alignment was that the Phillies’ third game of the season would be televised nationally, in prime time, and Arrieta had the experience to handle such a big-stage, bright-lights assignment.

It made some sense.

But that was only part of the Phillies’ thinking.

Pivetta has huge potential and it’s crucial that he reach it during this win-now season. Aligning him second in the rotation, behind ace Aaron Nola, was a show of faith that the organization believed what so many others around baseball believed: This was the year that the 26-year-old right-hander was going to put it all together and be a big difference-maker for the Phillies.

So far, Pivetta has yet to deliver on the club’s faith in him.

In three starts this season, he has a 9.45 ERA and has not pitched past the fifth inning. On Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals torched him for seven hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. The Nats won in a rout, 15-1 (see observations), to take two of three in the series and afterward manager Gabe Kapler faced questions about how patient the team was willing to be with Pivetta.

“In order for us to meet expectations, we need better performances,” Kapler said in response to one of the questions.

Later in the postgame news conference, he was asked a second time how patient the team could afford to be with Pivetta.

“I don’t know,” Kapler said. “The answer to that question is probably pretty patient but I’m not sure exactly how to answer that question.”

On the one hand, it’s advisable to take a chill pill when it comes to Pivetta. After all, the season is just 11 games old and the Phillies are 7-4. Pivetta is simply too talented, too promising, to lose his spot in the rotation three starts into the season. Something could click in his next start and he could get on a roll before the leaves even return to the trees.

But on the other hand, Pivetta’s struggles are not new. Over his last 19 starts, dating to the end of June, he has a 6.16 ERA and he’s averaged less than five innings.

If these struggles continue, the Phillies will eventually have to make a change. They didn't invest in new talent all over the diamond, including the $330 million man in right field, to spin their wheels in development mode. Pivetta can be sent to the minors and the team does have starting pitching depth at Triple A. Beyond that, a trade is always possible.

It’s up to Pivetta to silence this talk. Soon.

“I'm better than that,” he said after the loss. “Guys expect me to be better than that. I need to be better for my teammates.”

The Phillies have lost two in a row for the first time this season. The Nationals outscored them 24-1 over the final 14 innings of the series. Washington took two of three and has won three of five against the Phils in the new season.

The Phils were never in the series finale. Pivetta needed 39 pitches to get through the first inning. He allowed three runs. He allowed three more in the fourth after a two-out walk.

“Tonight’s performance is not close to the greatness that Nick has the capabilities to achieve,” Kapler said.

The manager went on to mention Pivetta’s preparation and the intent with which he delivers pitches, particularly his offspeed stuff.

“It’s conviction and it’s attacking,” Kapler said. “I think he sometimes picks around the strike zone instead of really aggressively attacking hitters. It’s a mindset.”

Pivetta knows much is expected of him this season. And with the pressure mounting, he gets another chance to deliver Tuesday night against the Mets.

“Sometimes the game beats the (crap) out of you,” he said. “I just have to bounce back.”

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Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers

BOX SCORE

The Phillies and Dodgers waited out a rain delay of 2 hours and 37 minutes before finally resuming the top of the third inning Wednesday night.

And after the long, long, long wait ... the Phillies lost 7-2.

There wasn't much Phillies offense to speak of. They had two hits, one in the ninth inning. It probably should not have been a surprise that they couldn't muster more offense given their lineup. It was their least impressive batting order of the season, with Brad Miller, Adam Haseley, Nick Williams and Andrew Knapp occupying spots 5 through 8. Still ... two hits.

"Rain delays are always tough," said Scott Kingery, who had the Phillies' lone hit until the ninth. "Once you start the game, adrenaline's going and then you come back in here and sit around for a few hours. You've got to do the best you can to get it going again, get your body moving. ... Just a tough night."

David Freese had the key blow for the Dodgers, a two-run, opposite-field homer off Juan Nicasio in the seventh. It came two innings after a fan yelled "Freese, you look like my Uber driver," which was kind of funny. 

The Phillies had just tied the game the previous half-inning on a bases-loaded walk by Miller and an RBI groundout from Haseley. Both runs were unearned as the Phillies benefitted from Max Muncy's shaky defense at third base.

Justin Turner doubled the Dodgers' lead with a pinch-hit two-run home run off Austin Davis in the eighth.

Nick Pivetta started the game and allowed a first-inning run after walking the bases loaded. Control issues for Phillies pitchers didn't end there — they walked 10 Dodgers and hit two more on the night.

The Phillies (49-47) don't have much time to rest. Thursday's series finale — on YouTube only — begins at 12:35 p.m.

"I don't even think we have time to be disappointed," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We have to be back here pretty early in the morning with (Aaron) Nola on the mound and a rested bullpen in terms of our guys that we're leaning on in leverage innings.

"We feel good about tomorrow. Anxious to get back to the ballpark and wipe off tonight."

Can't find the zone

Reliever Edgar Garcia, who continues to struggle, has thrown a frustratingly low number of strikes lately. On Monday, he entered the game with the Phillies down by 11 runs and walked three batters. If ever there is a time to go right at hitters, it is then. 

On Wednesday, 15 of his 29 pitches were balls and he fell behind reliever Julio Urias before allowing an RBI single up the middle to him in the sixth inning.

Garcia is one of three Phillies relievers who probably shouldn't be in the major leagues right now but is here out of necessity. Outings like this do not inspire confidence. It wouldn't be surprising if the Phillies sent him down Thursday or Friday to bring up a fresh arm.

Garcia has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 27 appearances.

Segura returns

Jean Segura popped out as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night. He will be in Thursday's lineup after missing much of the last two games with a bruised heel.

Not a strong showing from Williams

In his first game back with the Phillies, Williams looked out of sorts at the plate, grounding out softly twice and expanding the zone multiple times in a strikeout against right-handed reliever Pedro Baez.

Williams had hit .345 at Triple A but just has not gotten going at the big-league level this season. He'll have an opportunity to play over the next few weeks with Jay Bruce on the injured list with a strained oblique.

Williams is behind Haseley on the outfield depth chart, though.

Up next

The four-game series concludes Thursday afternoon at 12:35, and then the Phillies hit the road for three games this weekend in Pittsburgh. They're off Monday, then play in two in Detroit before coming back to Philly for an eight-game homestand against the Braves, Giants and White Sox. 

Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) opposes Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65) on Thursday.

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

A surprisingly large number of Phillies fans stuck around Wednesday night after a rain delay of 2 hours, 37 minutes.

The top of the fifth provided a nice moment in the stands, as one fan gave a foul ball to another and they hugged.

Chivalry isn't dead, even after a few frustrating nights against the Dodgers, oppressively hot conditions and hours of waiting around for the game to resume.

Be sure to watch the video above for a heartwarming moment.

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