Phillies

Phillies players jacked to have Jake Arrieta

Phillies players jacked to have Jake Arrieta

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies clubhouse buzzed with excitement Monday afternoon. Jake Arrieta is on his way and the stakes have been raised for this club.

“I don’t know what other thought there would be other than it’s a great move for us,” catcher Cameron Rupp said. “How can you think otherwise? It’s exciting. It’s a guy who has established himself in the big leagues, been to a World Series. There’s a lot of good things that can come from not only having him on our pitching staff, but in our clubhouse as well.

“I’m sure that predictive stat of how many games we’re going to win just went up.

“There’s a lot of good things happening here. It’s nice to see it.”

Arrieta's three-year, $75 million contract became official when he passed his physical exam in Philadelphia on Monday. He will be introduced Tuesday at a 9 a.m. news conference in Clearwater. To make room for Arrieta on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated Tommy Joseph for assignment (see story)

The Phillies won just 66 games last season, though they did play .500 ball over their final 76 games. They would likely need to improve their overall win total by 20 to nibble around the second wild-card spot. Improvement in all corners of the roster is needed, but with Arrieta and Aaron Nola accounting for 40 percent of the club’s starts, the Phillies’ chances are better today than they were yesterday.

At the very least, Arrieta's signing indicates that the organization’s tack is shifting from rebuilding to contending.

“It shows that the turning of the tide is a lot sooner than I think we all thought,” pitcher Jerad Eickhoff said. “This whole camp has been real positive and there was this sense that it could happen sooner than later, but this is just another piece. It's a pretty exciting time.”

Arrieta is one of four free agents signed by the Phillies this winter, along with Carlos Santana and relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. Arrieta and Hunter were teammates in Baltimore and remain close friends. Hunter spent the winter trying to convince his pal to sign with the Phillies.

“I was coming hard in the paint, man,” Hunter said with a laugh.

On Sunday, Arrieta called Hunter (via FaceTime) and told him he’d reached agreement with the Phillies.

“He’s a Cy Young winner and a great clubhouse guy," Hunter said.

Can his addition turn the Phillies into contenders?

“The team could have made a run without him,” Hunter said. “You never know in baseball. I don’t want to put that burden or weight on one person and say that guy is going to transform an entire organization, but if you asked him if there’s anybody that could do it, it’d be him. He’s a confident guy and you have to be at the level he’s pitched at the last few years. You have to walk around with that swag and I think it’s going to take a lot of pressure off a lot of people having him here.”

Hunter was crowned champion of the team’s clubhouse ping-pong tournament last week. Will he give his new teammate a shot at the title?

“He can step in line like everybody else,” Hunter said. “Back of the bus, kid.”

Slow death continues as Phillies blow another chance to gain on Braves

Slow death continues as Phillies blow another chance to gain on Braves

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The NL East stinks!

That was the text message that arrived from a longtime major league scout as the Phillies were finishing up a 9-4 loss to the New York Mets on Monday night (see first take).

The guy had a point.

Since Aug. 5, when they were a season-high 15 games over .500, the Phillies have lost 25 of 38 games and yet they are somehow still mathematically alive in the division race. That’s because the Atlanta Braves have been unable to run away and hide. The Braves lost their third game in a row on Monday night. That’s two days in a row that the Phillies have blown a chance to make up ground in the race. They are 6½ games behind with 13 to play. Seven of those 13 games are against the Braves. 

Even after losing Monday night, the Braves’ magic number for clinching the division is down to seven.

“It’s just not going well all the way around,” Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “It’s kind of plain and simple. Yeah, the Braves lose and that’s great, but we have to win some games. We haven’t done that consistently and that’s why we are where we are.”

The little picture

The Phillies have lost seven of their last nine. Not long ago, the club had a division title in its sights. Now, simply finishing .500 is going to be a challenge. The Phils need to go at least 5-8 in their last 13 games to finish .500.

Mets misery

The Phillies are 6-11 against the Mets this season and 25-49 since the start of the 2015 season.

Before Monday night’s game, manager Gabe Kapler said, “We can’t play good baseball anymore. We have to play great baseball down the stretch.”

The Phillies did not come close do doing that. Offensively, they had just five hits and four of them came in one inning, the fifth. The Phils were no-hit by Zach Wheeler over the first four innings, did plenty of damage with four runs in the fifth – J.P. Crawford had a three-run triple — then had just one hit the rest of the way.

Arrieta did not pitch well. He allowed 10 base runners and four runs in just five innings. He gave up five hits and three runs in the fifth inning.

“Too many hittable pitches in the strike zone really is what it boiled down to,” Arrieta said.

The front office did not add starting pitching at the trade deadline because it had faith in what it had. Arrieta was the lone veteran in the starting group and he needed to come up big down the stretch. Instead, he has pitched to a 6.03 ERA in his last seven starts. That’s not what the Phillies expected when they gave him $75 million and a ride on Air Middleton.

Arrieta is 10-9 with a 3.77 ERA in 29 starts.

He was asked to assess his season.

“I would like it to be a little bit better,” he said. “I feel like it could have been better in some areas, but what’s done is done. I’ve got to move forward and just try to be better the next time we go out there.”

Arrieta's next start comes Saturday in Atlanta.

The Phils will need a miracle for that game to even matter.

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Mets 9, Phillies 4: That’s 7 losses in the last 9 games

Mets 9, Phillies 4: That’s 7 losses in the last 9 games

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The New York Mets continue to make life miserable on the Phillies. The Mets beat the Phils for the 11th time in 17 meetings this season on Monday night. The final score from quiet Citizens Bank Park was 9-4.

The Phillies entered the game trailing first-place Atlanta by 6½ games in the NL East and were unable to make up any ground. The Phils have 13 games left, including seven with Atlanta. The two teams begin a four-game series Thursday night in Atlanta, but this race is all but over.

Not enough offense

It’s a familiar refrain, but the Phillies didn’t produce enough offense. Sure, they scored four runs against Mets starter Zack Wheeler, but they all came in one inning – the fifth – after they had been no-hit for the first four innings. The Phils had just five hits in the game and three of them came in the fifth inning. J.P. Crawford had the big blow, a three-run triple. The Phils then tied the game on a sacrifice fly and left a runner at second base when Rhys Hoskins was called out for interfering with a pickoff attempt by the catcher. Ouch.

Arrieta struggles

Jake Arrieta was not sharp. He allowed 10 base runners and four runs in five innings. Tommy Hunter gave up the go-ahead run on a two-out double in the seventh and Michael Conforto completely snuffed out the Phils with a three-run homer in the ninth en route to a six-RBI night.

Just when the Phillies needed Arrieta most, he has failed to deliver. His ERA over his last seven starts is a plump 6.03.

Stat check

Carlos Santana drew his 100th and 101st walks of the season. He became the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in 2008 to reach 100 walks.

Going to need a bigger bus

The Phillies are expected to activate lefty reliever Aaron Loup from the disabled list on Tuesday. That means every player on the 40-man roster will be active. Can’t remember the last time that happened with a Phillies team – if ever. Loup will give the team 16 active relievers. Someone might have to build an addition onto the bullpen.

On Sunday, general manager Matt Klentak said he was not fond of the rule that allows rosters to expand beyond 25 in September. He doesn’t like the idea of playing under one set of rules for five months and then another for the final month of the season, when games can grow in importance. Of course, all teams add players in September and as long as that is permitted the Phillies will play along as they seek any competitive advantage.

For the record, Gabe Kapler likes having the extra players.

“It's an invigorating challenge, a stimulating challenge, one that I really enjoy,” he said of juggling an expanded roster. “If you can convince your players to take a real team-first approach and that everyone is going to contribute every single night or has a chance to contribute every single night regardless of what inning it is and what part of the game they play, I actually think it could be a really exciting brand of baseball. The more chess pieces you have, the more interesting the game becomes. Maybe that’s not the case for the fan. I’m thinking about it from the perspective of the manager. And from my perspective, I like more chess pieces.”

Thirty-nine chess pieces couldn’t bring the Phils a win Monday night.

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