Phillies look good, feel good, play good in win over lowly Marlins

Phillies look good, feel good, play good in win over lowly Marlins

MIAMI — Jake Arrieta is going to need a new road-gray Phillies jersey. The one he wore Friday night is going on the wall at home.

The 33-year-old right-hander pitched a beauty in leading the Phillies to a 9-1 win over the Miami Marlins (see observations). He gave up just one run in seven innings of work for the 100th win of his career.

The milestone clearly meant something to him.

“I tried to get it last year, but came up a little short,” Arrieta said after the game. “Accomplishing something like I did tonight just makes you appreciate everything you go through and how hard it is to get to a spot like this. Just a lot of ups and downs and figuring some things out, forgetting some things, re-learning them. This game is very humbling. I'll never forget that.”

Arrieta endured a lot of ups and downs before putting it all together and winning the National League Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs in 2015. He signed with the Phillies last season and had a disappointing second half. He’s come into the new season determined to have a good one and so far he has. He is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts. He has allowed just 13 hits and five earned runs in 20 innings.

Arrieta pitched shutout ball for the first six innings Friday night and scattered three hits before allowing two hits and a run in the seventh.

He kept a few souvenirs from the win.

“I got a handful of baseballs and some tickets, and I'm going to keep my jersey,” he said. “I think that'll be sufficient for tonight, and march on to 200.”

The lowly Marlins came into the game scoring 2.62 runs per game, 29th in the majors, and hitting a paltry .215. Arrieta did just what a pitcher is supposed to do against a weak-hitting team: He attacked the strike zone. Seventy-six of his 108 pitches were strikes.

Arrieta recently made a mechanical adjustment on his changeup and the pitch was outstanding. He threw 20 of them, 19 for strikes, and it produced six swinging strikes.

“It's such a good pitch for me,” he said. “An adjustment that I made in a bullpen session a few days ago is shortening my arm path. When I dig too far behind me, that creates a lateral rotation and I'm trying to keep it inside my body line, not allow it to go behind me. I was able to do that, and what that allows me to do is get my arm to the right spot and release. If I can do that, my changeup is going to be really good. Cutter was OK tonight. It's coming around. But man, when that pitch is locked in, it's going to be a lot of fun.”

After losing two straight to the Washington Nationals, the Phillies needed to have some fun. Andrew McCutchen set the tone by aggressively going from first to third in the third inning. It helped ignite a five-run rally.

“He carried energy into the clubhouse today,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There’s something different about his vibe. I think he probably understood that he needed to shoulder some load and I think he did just that. He knew that we needed somebody to step up and bring that energy level and he did it.”

In addition to his role in the five-run third inning, McCutchen clubbed a three-run homer in the eighth.

He was all-smiles after the game.

“It’s always nice to come back to my home state,” McCutchen said. “I got a fresh haircut today by my guy Pablo and it felt really good. So I had the look-good, feel-good part down. I just needed to play good and I got that one of out of the way, too. Hit all three of ‘em so it’s been a great day.”

The Phillies went 3-6 in Miami last season and were 11-8 overall against the stripped-down Marlins. By contrast, the division champion Braves went 14-5 against the Marlins.

The Phils know they must continue to play well against the Marlins. They are off to a good start with 18 more meetings on tap between the two clubs.

“That's what we didn't do well last year,” Arrieta said of the need to clean up on the rebuilding Marlins. “I think that's why it kind of slipped away from us. We didn't take care of business against the teams we were supposed to beat. But on that same note, nobody's going to roll over for us. Those guys are major-league players, as well. And if you have a lapse in focus or concentration, you're going to get beat by anybody. We have to keep our foot on the accelerator, understand what it takes to win games against teams like this who are rebuilding, who might not have the experience level that we have, and take advantage of that.”

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Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

The calls for Astros players to get suspended have gotten louder and louder as players have descended upon Florida and Arizona for spring training this past week. From Cody Bellinger to Mike Trout to Trevor Bauer to Nick Markakis and everywhere in between, players have made clear how angry they are about Houston's cheating scandal. 

It's going to take a long time for Astros players to gain back the respect of their peers.

It's not some easy fix, though. Astros players were granted immunity from discipline in order for their cooperation in MLB's investigation. MLB cannot, after the fact, revoke that immunity and decide to suspend players knowing what it now knows. That would never fly, and it shouldn't. Whether immunity should have been granted in the first place is the big question, but that point has passed.

Joe Girardi was asked on ESPN's Golic and Wingo Show Wednesday whether he thought MLB's punishment was sufficient.

The Phillies' first-year skipper doesn't think the current punishment serves as much of a deterrent.

"There are some people that lost their jobs that really were the people that had to pay for it, but there were a lot more people involved," Girardi said. "The financial gain for the players is substantial if they have big seasons because of this, so if there's no punishment for them, I'm not sure that it stops. I'm really not sure. Because the financial gain, similar to the steroid era, is very similar. If you know it's coming and you have a big year and you're a free agent, there's a lot (of money) to be made there and players want to take care of their families.

"I'm not exactly sure what the right answer is, but I don't know how much of a deterrent it is for players right now. There's not a huge deterrent for the players and I think there has to be to make sure that it stops."

People made fun of commissioner Rob Manfred for saying this but it should be acknowledged that the public ridicule the Astros are feeling right now will actually serve as some sort of deterrent. That doesn't mean MLB made the right call, that their decision-making process has been sound or that Manfred has done himself any favors publicly. But the disrespect factor around the league and around the country is real. Guys like Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, even a Justin Verlander — will they ever again command the respect they did before this? This is a permanent stain.

MLB recognized how difficult an investigation would have been without cooperation from key figures and went the route of immunity. It's a decision that will be questioned for years.

"If you're not in the clubhouse and you don't admit yourself that you did it, how do you take the word from another player that he was doing it? That's the hard part," Girardi said. "Like, if you get caught with something on your body, that to me definitely should be a suspension and a huge fine. But to say that someone was using it, it's his word against his word, that's pretty tough to penalize a player."

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A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, returned to a bullpen mound Wednesday and threw 27 pitches.

Ordinarily, a bullpen session in spring training is not news, but Howard had temporarily stopped his bullpen work after sustaining a minor knee injury — manager Joe Girardi called it a "tweak" — 10 days earlier.

Howard threw all of his pitches during the bullpen session as a gaggle of fans watched at Carpenter Complex.

"I only saw two pitches," said Girardi, who was busy bouncing around four fields. "But he felt great. That's the important thing."

Girardi said there was no timetable for when Howard would pitch in a Grapefruit League game. The Phillies are on record as saying they will take things slowly with Howard in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is on an innings/workload limit this season and the Phillies would like to get a good chunk of those innings in the big leagues.

"Spencer has an innings limit so we have to think about this because we believe at some point he's going to play a role for us," Girardi said earlier in camp. "We can't go wear him out by June so we have to think about that. We're not going to waste a lot of innings in spring training."

It's possible that the Phillies could hold Howard back in extended spring training in the month of April so they can maximize his innings later in the season.

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