Phillies

Jake Arrieta ready for Sunday, doesn't want Aaron Nola treatment

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Jake Arrieta ready for Sunday, doesn't want Aaron Nola treatment

Jake Arrieta threw 35 pitches in the bullpen before Thursday's home opener as he narrowed his preparation for his Phillies debut Sunday.

"It's going to be very special," the 32-year-old right-hander said. "I've played here quite a bit. I've pitched really well here. I'm very comfortable with the surroundings. I love the bullpens. The comfort level already is very high.

"So to be able to put the home pinstripes on and pitch in front of these fans, especially our opening weekend here, it's going to be really special. There's going to be a lot of that nervous anxious energy you get at the start of really any season, regardless of what uniform you're wearing."

Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phils last month, worked himself to 68 pitches in a simulated game in Clearwater on Monday.

"I'm ready to get extended," he said.

Of course, "getting extended" has been an issue in the early days of the Gabe Kapler era. The Phillies are intent on protecting their starting pitchers. Aaron Nola was removed after throwing 68 pitches on opening day and a 5-0 lead became an 8-5 loss in Atlanta.

Arrieta was asked if he expected Kapler to be careful with him on Sunday.

"I don't know," he said.

Arrieta then made it pretty clear he wouldn't be in favor of a quick hook without good reason.

"I think a lot of that, you've got to use the eye test," he said. "If a guy is rolling then you may extend him a little bit longer and if you have high-stress innings, one or multiple, then you kind of reevaluate and go from there. But I think you've got to watch the game and see how it unfolds and if you're cruising then you would obviously like to continue to stay out there, but it's tough to plead your case if you're struggling to stay in the game.

"So it just depends on how the game unfolds and how things progress, but if I'm rolling I intend to be out there for quite a while."

The soft-spoken Nola didn't lobby Kapler to stay in the game on opening day.

Arrieta was the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Chicago Cubs. That comes with some cachet. So if he found himself in a similar situation to Nola's, he would lobby the manager to stay in.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "If it's done smartly, for sure. We pitch one out of every five days so if there's an extra 20 pitches in there that we can give our team then we want to do that. So, yeah, I'm always trying to plead my case."

Arrieta has won both of his previous starts at Citizens Bank Park. In 15 innings of work, he has allowed just one run. He walked one and struck out 16.

Hector Neris picks up biggest outs of young season in confidence-builder for Phillies bullpen

Hector Neris picks up biggest outs of young season in confidence-builder for Phillies bullpen

As Phillies manager Joe Girardi maneuvered his way through the middle and late innings with a beleaguered bullpen in a close game Thursday night, one thought weighed uncomfortably on his mind.

Girardi's counterpart, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, had decided this was the night to rest one of the most dangerous hitters on the planet. But just because Aaron Judge was out of the starting lineup didn't mean he and his lethal power bat wouldn't be a factor in the game.

Sure enough, with the Phillies desperately clinging to a one-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning and a man on third base, the hulking Judge grabbed his bat and strode toward the plate.

Girardi responded by replacing lefty reliever Jose Alvarez with right-handed closer Hector Neris.

Phillies fans beyond the centerfield gate and those watching on television held their breath.

Five pitches later, they could exhale as Neris got Judge to swing over a splitter for strike three. It was the biggest out of the young season — at least for an inning. Neris allowed a pair of two-out hits in the ninth before retiring Luke Voit on a ball to the warning track to complete a 5-4 victory over the Yankees.

The win gave the Phils a split of the four-game series with one of baseball's most powerful teams.

J.T. Realmuto and Phil Gosselin stood out with the bats and Zach Eflin pitched well in his season debut as the Phillies improved their record to 3-4. 

But the star of the game was an unlikely unit, a bullpen that had been scorched for 17 earned runs in 16⅔ innings in the early part of the season.

The 'pen was handed a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning and got 15 outs to preserve a one-run victory. Nick Pivetta allowed a two-run homer in the seventh for the bullpen's only blemish. But Pivetta did get six of the 15 outs.

Neris got four huge outs, including the strikeout of Judge, who leads the majors with seven homers and 17 RBIs in his first 12 games.

Yes, Girardi thought about having Neris walk Judge and go after Gio Urshela. But he didn't think about it for too long.

"You know, Aaron Judge, as great a hitter as he is, if you make your pitches you have a chance," Girardi said. "I thought Hector and J.T. had a great plan and they executed it."

Realmuto, the Phillies catcher, sensed that Judge would be looking for a first-pitch splitter because Neris is known for that pitch and threw it 66 percent of the time to lead off an at-bat last season. So Realmuto called for two straight fastballs then three straight splitters and it got the job done.

"That's a dangerous at-bat for any pitcher because if you make a mistake he can hit it out of the ballpark anywhere," Girardi said. "Hector was fantastic. 

"When you look at what our bullpen did tonight, they gave us five strong innings against arguably the best lineup in baseball. Just an outstanding job."

Girardi admitted that his heart may have skipped a beat when Voit launched his ball to center in the last at-bat of the game. Off the bat, it looked like it had a chance to be a three-run homer and more misery for the bullpen.

"You worry because you know how strong these guys are and how far they hit the ball," Girardi said. "But you feel a little bit better when you see your centerfielder nestle under it."

The bullpen needed a little confidence-builder after a rough start to the season. But there's not much time to savor the performance. The Braves arrive Friday night for a four-game series.

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Phillies' beleaguered bullpen gets the job done to earn series split vs. mighty Yankees

Phillies' beleaguered bullpen gets the job done to earn series split vs. mighty Yankees

The Phillies' beleaguered bullpen got the job done in a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Thursday night.

The taut victory gave the Phillies a split of the four-game, home-and-home series with the Yankees, who had won nine of their first 11 games.

The Phillies are 3-4 after seven games. They play their next four in division against the Atlanta Braves.

The Phils got a promising start from Zach Eflin in winning the series finale against the Yankees. They got a three-run homer from J.T. Realmuto and another big hit from Phil Gosselin. But the star of the game might have been closer Hector Neris. He highlighted a good night for the bullpen with a four-out save that included a huge strikeout of one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball with a runner on base in a one-run game in the eighth inning.

Eflin's night

The right-hander did a lot of good things against a powerful lineup in his season debut.

He worked four innings and gave up two runs, but both were unearned after a Scott Kingery error extended the second inning. The error, on a possible double-play ball, caused Eflin's pitch count to soar and that prevented him from going another inning and qualifying for the win. Eflin threw 77 pitches, many of them his bread-and-butter sinking fastball. He allowed just four hits, one walk and struck out five.

The Phillies need Eflin to be a consistent contributor this season. This was a good place to start.

Hold your breath

Eflin's pitch count was being watched carefully because he's still building his workload after a July back injury. After Eflin left the game with a 5-2 lead, manager Joe Girardi had to hope that his struggling bullpen could get 15 outs against possibly the best lineup in baseball to preserve the lead.

It did.

Barely.

But it did.

Deolis Guerra, who failed to keep Monday night's game in New York close, enjoyed some redemption with a scoreless fifth inning.

Nick Pivetta worked the next two innings and allowed a two-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the seventh as the Yanks made it a one-run game.

Things got hairy in the top of the eighth as Giancarlo Stanton doubled against Jose Alvarez with one out and moved to third on a ground out.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone sent up Aaron Judge (he did not start) to pinch-hit and Girardi countered with right-handed closer Neris. In a dramatic showdown with the game on the line, Neris struck out Judge on five pitches to end the threat and preserve the lead.

Judge leads the majors with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 12 games. Neris got him swinging over a splitter. It was the biggest out of the season so far for the Phillies.

Neris survived a pair of two-out singles in the ninth for the save. It was a nervous save as Yankee slugger Luke Voit sent one to the warning track in center for the final out.

Uncle Larry warms up

Before the game, Girardi expressed faith in leadoff man Andrew McCutchen, who had started off 1 for 18 with two walks. McCutchen lined out to shortstop in the first inning but singled and doubled later in the game. His double in the seventh likely would have scored Roman Quinn from first base hadn't Quinn been picked off with his team up a run.

Realmuto stays hot

With a vocal group of fans shouting "Sign J.T." from beyond the centerfield gate, Realmuto homered for the second straight night. His three-run homer in the first inning came against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. Rhys Hoskins (walk) and Bryce Harper (single) were on base. 

Realmuto leads the Phils with three homers and eight RBIs.

Realmuto also made a huge defensive play, gunning down a runner trying to steal second base in the fourth to complete a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.

Also on the hot list

Phil Gosselin got the start as the designated hitter and doubled home two runs in the third to give the Phils a 5-2 lead. Gosselin is 6 for 10 on the season with six RBIs.

Up next

The Phillies open a four-game series with NL East rival Atlanta on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Vince Velasquez (0-0, 12.00) will oppose right-hander Kyle Wright (0-1, 7.50) in the first game of the series. Jake Arrieta pitches Saturday night for the Phillies and it's possible that prospect Spencer Howard could get the call on Sunday afternoon.

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