Phillies

Jake Arrieta reveals root of knee injury, expresses optimism on Manny Machado-Bryce Harper front

Jake Arrieta reveals root of knee injury, expresses optimism on Manny Machado-Bryce Harper front

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jake Arrieta has an explanation for his struggles late last season.

A cartilage injury in his left knee.

“I originally tore it sometime in June, I believe, maybe a little bit before that,” Arrieta revealed Thursday.

The right-hander kept the issue quiet and pitched through it, but his performance suffered down the stretch. He went 1-5 with a 6.35 ERA over his final nine starts.

The issue cropped up again during offseason workouts at home in Texas and this time Arrieta spoke up. He flew to Philadelphia in January, had an MRI and a surgical procedure to clean up the tear.

It was good that Arrieta suffered the flareup when he did. He has plenty of time to recover and be ready to start the season on time. In fact, he’s already thrown from a bullpen mound. Pain-free.

“I have zero concerns about Jake Arrieta,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

Though he prefers his players to speak up when they don't feel right, manager Gabe Kapler was not surprised that Arrieta continued to pitch with pain in his knee last season.

“Jake’s a tough individual so he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to let on that something’s bugging him because there’s a lot of pride there,” Kapler said.

Arrieta, who turns 33 in March, is an interesting guy in this camp, a very important member of the pitching staff as he enters the second season of a three-year, $75 million contract, and a bit of a case study for the direction free agency is going these days.

A year ago, he was at home, working out by himself. He had entered the offseason seeking deals of up to seven years. The Phillies weren’t about to visit that neighborhood. They made a three-year offer and waited and waited — and eventually, Arrieta took it in mid-March.

Now, the Phillies are traveling the same road with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

“I was in that same boat,” Arrieta said. “From the outside looking in, from the fan perspective, people think we're not just signing, or guys are turning deals down. The truth is, the right deal for those guys might not be there. They want to be here. They want to be in camp with their teammates. That was the hardest part for me, not being in Clearwater with these guys for the first three weeks — not getting to develop those relationships, get to know the catchers, the coaching staff. That's tough.

“Manny and Bryce aren't the only two out there right now. Those guys, I promise you, want to be in a camp with a team today if that is a possibility. It's tough on them and their families to not have a team to be with. Even though those guys are going to get taken care of financially, it's still tough on them not being in a clubhouse and getting to cultivate those relationships that are so important for everyone on the team.”

Teams are trying (and succeeding) to take back the hammer from the players in free agency and the players’ union might not be able to counterpunch until the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.

“Absolutely,” said Arrieta when asked if the strength of the union was being tested. “We have two or three more years under the current bargaining agreement, so it's going to be tough. Last thing anyone wants to see is a strike. But we have to find a way to unite on both sides and make this work. We have to come together as a union to see if we can figure out a way to come to some agreement with the league on a better way to navigate the free-agent market. Some things need to change.”

Arrieta was a teammate of Machado in Baltimore and he shares an agent (Scott Boras) with Harper. Despite these connections, he professed to have no inside information on which player the Phillies might land.

“But I could definitely see at least one of those guys here,” he said.

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Like a poorly located 0-2 fastball, this 2019 Phillies season is almost outta here

Like a poorly located 0-2 fastball, this 2019 Phillies season is almost outta here

CLEVELAND — This Phillies season did not go from highly promising six months ago to grossly disappointing heading into the final week on one 0-2 pitch.

But 16 of them?

That surely contributed to the disappointment.

The Phils began their final week of the season — and possibly the final week of Gabe Kapler’s managerial term — with what you might call a national embarrassment Sunday night. They made three errors, two of which were extremely costly, en route to a self-destructive 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on national television (see observations).

The defeat left the Phillies' tragic number at 2. Their minuscule postseason hopes could be extinguished before Aaron Nola even gets to the bullpen to warm up for the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Washington. If that happens, the right-hander should pitch four innings, which would get him over 200 for the season, and shut it down until Clearwater.

There are eight games remaining.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Kapler said. “Certainly we’re going to have to win every game. We’re going to have to win out. We understand that’s a tall task. We also understand that’s a possibility. There’s not a guy in that room that’s not going to fight to the very end.”

The Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011. They finish with five against a Washington club that is bearing down on an NL wild-card berth and three against a Miami club that has given them fits. The Phils will need to win three of the final eight to have a winning season.

It’s all kind of hard to believe considering the Phils were 11 games above .500 and 3½ games up in the NL East on May 29.

So many things went wrong for this club, from injuries to inconsistency and underperformance both in pitching and offense, and the front office had no cure at the trade deadline. Now, the club is getting ready to go home for an eighth straight October. That’s certainly not what owner John Middleton expected when he celebrated the offseason addition of J.T. Realmuto and doubled down with a $330 million payout to land Bryce Harper.

The Phils faced almost impossible postseason odds even before Sunday night, but that made the loss to the 92-win Indians no less galling.

It was a 1-1 game in the bottom of the fifth inning, but it didn’t stay that way long. Cleveland’s first two batters of the frame reached on errors by shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Vince Velasquez. Ultimately, Velasquez got in position to get out of the inning unscathed. In fact, he was one strike away from doing that when Oscar Mercado unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the left-field wall for a game-changing three-run homer.

The Indians padded the lead with six runs in the seventh, but the fifth inning was the ballgame and the Phils beat themselves.

“In order for us to win big games, we have to take the outs that they give us,” Kapler said. “We didn’t play our best defensive game. I don’t think there’s any way you can spin it other than just not on top of our game defensively.”

Last week in Atlanta, general manager Matt Klentak praised the Phillies’ improved defense. Since then, the team has racked up multiple-error performances in three of five games.

Mercado’s killer home run Sunday night was the 16th allowed by a Phillies pitcher on an 0-2 count this season. If that seems like a lot, it is. No team has allowed more 0-2 homers this season.

Velasquez started Mercado with a curveball for a strike then got another strike on a 96 mph heater. He went back on the gas on the next pitch and Mercado jumped it.

“I was just trying to go with an elevated fastball,” Velasquez said. “I mean, he was late on the [previous] fastball he swung at. I tried to challenge him with another fastball and he got the head out. I didn't get it up in the zone enough.”

Said Kapler: “I think Vinny will say if he went to a breaking ball right there he probably gets a swing and miss. If he elevates that fastball a little more he probably gets a swing and miss. To that point, Vinny was executing his pitches and he missed with that one.”

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

These aren’t the kind of records a team wants to be setting. But this hasn’t been the kind of season the Phillies wanted or expected.

On to Washington as the lights grow dim.

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Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — The Phillies began the final week of their season with an embarrassing 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in a nationally televised game on Sunday night.

A series of self-inflicted wounds hurt the Phillies in the fifth inning and the Indians delivered a knockout blow with six runs in the seventh.

The Indians scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning — all on a home run by Oscar Mercado — to take control of the game.

Mercado’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Vince Velasquez with two outs in the inning. The frame began with two Indians reaching base on a pair of Phillies errors, one by Jean Segura, one by Velasquez.

The Phillies made three errors in the game. They have had multi-error games in three of the six games on this trip.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 79-75. They need three wins in their final eight games to have their first winning season since 2011.

The Phillies’ microscopic postseason hopes could be extinguished as soon as Tuesday. Their elimination number is two (see story).

The 92-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.

A big problem

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

Velasquez was one strike away from getting out of the fifth inning. Catcher J.T. Realmuto called for a fastball up in the zone but Velasquez did not get it up high enough and Mercado crushed it into the left-field seats for three runs and a Cleveland lead.

Phillies pitchers have been careless executing 0-2 pitches this season. They have allowed 16 homers in that count, the most in the majors.

Inspiring performance

Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who missed part of this season undergoing treatment for leukemia, came on in the top of the fifth and rolled a big double-play ball. He then put up a shutdown inning in the sixth and finished with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Carrasco was originally Phillies property. He was dealt to Cleveland in the package for Cliff Lee a decade ago. He led the American League with 18 wins in 2017.

The offense

The Phillies had just five hits. Scott Kingery had a pair of doubles. He entered the game hitting .159 (11 for 70) in September.

And another one

Realmuto threw out another runner trying to steal second base. It was his 38th of the season, most in the majors. He also doubled home the Phillies’ only run to give the club a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Up next

The Phillies move on to Washington for a five-game series against the Nationals beginning Monday night. Zach Eflin (9-12, 4.00) will pitch the opener against Washington lefty Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10).

The teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Neither team has named a starter for the first game. Aaron Nola (12-6, 3.75) is scheduled to face Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.81) in the nightcap.

On Wednesday night, the Phils will send Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) to the mound against right-hander Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91).

Lefty Jason Vargas (7-8, 4.40) will pitch Thursday afternoon against right-hander Stephen Strasburg (17-6, 3.37).

The Nationals are bidding to win the NL wild card.

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