SAN FRANCISCO — Jake Arrieta has had enough of this shift.
The Phillies right-hander oozed molten lava after the San Francisco Giants completed a three-game sweep of the punchless Phillies at AT&T Park Sunday afternoon. Arrieta pitched well for five innings only to absorb a 6-1 defeat after giving up five runs in the sixth inning (see first take).
Despite facing rookie starting pitchers in the last two games, the Phillies scored just one run in the three-game series. They went 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
No one was immune to Arrieta’s criticism after what he correctly called a “horsebleep series.” He called out the offense, rookie shortstop Scott Kingery’s defense, and the failed defensive shifts that plagued the team in the series. He added that there needed to be “an accountability check because this is a key moment in our season.” He did not leave himself out, saying, “I’m part of it, too. There’s no way I should have given up five runs in that inning.”
Arrieta, who had given the Phillies a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the third inning, gave up five straight one-out hits, four singles and a three-run home run, in this sixth. One of the hits was a broken-bat single. One was a check-swing that was scored an infield hit after Kingery failed to get an out. Another was a ground ball through a wide-open right side of the infield. It was all capped by Andrew McCutchen’s pop-fly home run down the right-field line that barely cleared the wall.
Arrieta began his rant after being asked about what happened in the inning.
“Well, we’ve had bad defensive shifts, we had a check swing, Kingery should have gone to second on that play and they got three hits in a row,” he fumed. “The home run, credit McCutchen for putting a good swing on it, but I did not expect a ball like that to get out. Overall, it’s just a really horses--- series. Really bad. Really bad.”
Arrieta was asked what upset him the most.
“We scored one run,” he said. “That’s not good.”
As a franchise, the Phillies pride themselves in the strides they’ve made in analytics, but Arrieta is not impressed by some of the defensive alignments that have been used.
“We’re the worst in the league in shifts,” he said, referring Sports Info Solutions data, which has the Phillies at minus-11 shift runs saved, by far the worst mark in baseball. “So we need to change that. Copy the best. I don’t know. That’s not my job. Use your eyes, make an adjustment and be better. We need some accountability all the way around — everybody, top to bottom.”
Manager Gabe Kapler met with Arrieta behind closed doors shortly after being made aware of the pitcher's stinging commentary.
“He’s a really passionate individual,” Kapler said. “He cares a lot about winning and this series pissed him off. It pisses me off, too. It was not our best series.
“He and I are going to spend some time talking about how we position defenders behind him. We are flexible and reasonable as it relates to the way we position defenders and we will be responsive to the optimal positioning based on our spray charts and based on where guys hit the ball, and we’ll also be responsive to our players, their needs and the best way to position defenders behind them so they are comfortable as they make their pitches.”
Kapler understood Arrieta's point of view.
“I have a ton of respect for the leadership characteristics he brings to that clubhouse,” Kapler said. “I know why he responded the way he did and we talked it through like men. And we’ll continue to do that.”
In the meantime, the Phils head into Monday’s off day and then a difficult series in Chicago against the Cubs with a 6-10 record in their last 16 games, hitting .205 over that span. They have scored five runs in the last five games.
Is Kapler worried about this snowballing?
"Not at all,” he said. “I don’t have an ounce of concern long term. Because we have the same group of talented individuals that we had when we were working deep counts, scoring more runs, having more success, making more solid contact.
“To take it to a statistical place, we have strong expected outcomes going forward. I don’t even think that’s necessary to dive into, but we have the same personnel and deep lineup we had before, minus Rhys (Hoskins), and he’s not far away either. So for all of those reasons, I’m not concerned about the long-term prospects of this offense.
“I have tremendous confidence that they are a resilient bunch and a bunch that stays together and they are a group that is determined and has the will to get through a tough stretch.”