This was the Jake Arrieta that the Phillies expected when they shelled out $75 million for his services five weeks ago.
Arrieta was dominant over seven innings and enjoyed the best of his three starts with his new club as he backboned a 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night.
The 32-year-old right-hander gave up just one hit. He walked two and struck out 10.
The win improved the Phillies to 11-7 overall and 6-1 at home. The Phils have a plus-35 run differential at home with nine more games to play on this homestand.
Pittsburgh is 12-7, tops in the National League Central. The Pirates entered the game leading the NL in runs scored and OPS, but Arrieta and relievers Yacksel Rios and Victor Arano cooled them off on just two hits.
The Pirates and Arrieta know each other well. This was Arrieta’s 21st career regular-season start against them. Things had not gone that well for Arrieta against the Pirates recently. He was 2-6 with a 6.48 ERA and 11 homers allowed in his previous eight regular-season starts against Pittsburgh, dating to July 2016.
But Arrieta (2-0) owned the Pirates in this one. He had excellent movement on his sinking fastball. The pitch produced 11 swinging strikes. Overall, Arrieta had 14 swinging strikes, notable because he had just nine in his previous two starts. Arrieta struck out just one batter in 6 2/3 innings Saturday at Tampa Bay. His first two outs of this game were strikeouts and he had three in the third inning. So, clearly his stuff was a lot better. His average fastball was 92.7 mph and he touched 95.
The Phillies gave Arrieta all the run support he needed in the second inning when they erupted for five runs.
Rhys Hoskins started the rally with a line-drive solo homer into the left-field seats. Cesar Hernandez smacked a bases-loaded single on a full-count pitch with two outs and the runners moving. All three runners scored. Odubel Herrera capped the rally with the first of his two RBI singles.
All of the runs came against Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon, who needed 40 pitches to get just two outs in the second inning.
Taillon had been off to a terrific start. He gave up just two runs in 20 1/3 innings over his first three starts.
• Carlos Santana returned to the Phillies’ starting lineup. He walked twice, singled and struck out.
• Herrera has reached base safely in 20 straight games, dating to last season.
• Reliever Tommy Hunter will get some work in a minor-league game at Reading on Friday night. Hunter is recovering from a hamstring strain. If all continues to go well, he should be activated sometime during this homestand.
• Right-hander Ben Lively (0-1, 5.87) pitches against right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 4.88) on Friday night.