On Saturday night in Queens, Jake Arrieta was downright horrendous in his starting assignment at Citi Field against the New York Mets.
The Phillies 33-year-old right-hander was torched by the Mets batters for 11 hits which produced six runs, five of those earned, and he was almost constantly in trouble.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, a base running gaffe by Robinson Cano helped Arrieta escape having allowed just one run despite surrendering two hits and hitting a batter. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Mets had the bases loaded with one out. Again, Arrieta wriggled out of it, allowing just one run.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Todd Frazier led off with a single and came home on a double by the next batter, Dominic Smith. Arrieta again escaped with just one run allowed, thanks largely to Smith being thrown out trying to stretch that double into a triple.
In the 5th inning, the Mets finally kicked in the door, driving Arrieta from the game amidst controversy. With one out, he hit Frazier with a pitch, prompting Frazier to bark at Arrieta all the way down to first base.
When home plate umpire Tripp Gibson immediately warned both benches, Mets skipper Mickey Callaway came out to argue. Frazier then turned his barking to Gibson and was ejected. The Mets third baseman had to be restrained from going after Arrieta, and was fuming as he made his way to the dugout and locker room.
Smith then doubled again, moving pinch-runner Adeiny Hechavarria around to third base. Arrieta then hit another batsman, Amed Rosario. Despite the earlier warning, the Phillies pitcher was not ejected, but Callaway was when he argued that fact.
It might have been better for the Phillies had Arrieta been ejected, because the very next batter, catcher Tomas Nido, ripped a bases-clearing double to put the Mets on top by a 6-4 margin. That would prove the game-winner, as the hosts would go on to an eventual 6-5 victory.
Following the game, Arrieta made this controversial comment: “Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me. I’ll put a dent in his skull.”
Arrieta postgame: “Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me. I’ll put a dent in his skull.” pic.twitter.com/VkrDsjSMaa
— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) July 7, 2019
Then in a report this morning by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic with contribution from Matt Gelb it was revealed that Arrieta has been battling an injury.
“Arrieta has a bone spur in his right elbow, according to a source, and it likely will require surgery to remove it — surgery that those involved had hoped could wait until the end of the season. That delay is no longer certain.”
Reporters repeatedly tried to question Arrieta following the game on the possibility of injury. He gave nothing but vague or evasive answers.
“I labored physically,” Arrieta said per Rosenthal and Gelb. “I wasn’t able to put the ball where I wanted to. It’s been that way for a few weeks. Just physically not in a great spot.”
Arrieta has made 17 starts in this, his second season with the Phillies after signing a big free agent contract during 2018 spring training. He leads the Phillies staff with 108 innings pitched and 8 wins. But he also has a 4.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and .282 batting average against, surrendering 18 home runs.
Over his last seven starts, Arrieta has allowed 53 hits including nine home runs over 38 innings pitched. Amazingly, the Phillies have gone 4-3 in those outings, including last night’s defeat.
If Arrieta is lost now, or if that happens in the next week or so, the Phillies already emaciated starting rotation is going to be on life support. Aaron Nola has regained his form of a year ago and is pitching like an ace once again. But otherwise, none of the Phillies starting pitchers has been reliable.
Zach Eflin has allowed 26 hits over 14 innings across his last three starts with a 9.64 ERA and .400 batting average against in that span. Nick Pivetta has a 5.84 ERA and 1.476 WHIP over his 11 starts. Vince Velasquez has already been bounced from the rotation once, and has a 4.63 ERA and 1.402 WHIP over 20 games, 10 each in relief and as a starter.
The other options tried during the season have been equaling unimpressive. Jerad Eickhoff, currently on the IL, had a 5.71 ERA and 1.303 WHIP over a dozen outings, including 10 starts. Cole Irvin was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the southpaw produced a 7.82 ERA and 1.579 WHIP over his three shots in the rotation. Enyel De Los Santos was called up and in his lone start against Miami, the righty allowed four earned on seven hits over just four innings.
Injuries to the relief corps has decimated the Phillies bullpen as well, making the pitching staff nearly a complete disaster at this point. The Phillies pitching staff collectively ranks 12th of the 15 teams in the National League in ERA (4.66), and both their .266 batting average against and 802 OPS against are 14th of the 15 NL clubs.
The pressure is now on general manager Matt Klentak to find a deal or two to strengthen the rotation unless he is willing to throw in the towel on a run at a 2019 postseason run. It seems highly unlikely that such a thing would be acceptable to owner John Middleton. But with two spots to fill and a number of other teams in Major League Baseball going after the same available arms, the job may simply be too big for Klentak to successfully complete.
In the longer run, Arrieta has a player option at $20 million for the 2020 season. It seems hard to believe that he would not exercise that option for a season during which he would be 34 years of age, coming off a down, injury-marred campaign. That means the Phillies would be locked into his presence in their rotation for next season, at least to open the year.
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- Odubel Herrera suspended for remainder of 2019 season, will not appeal
- J.T. Realmuto to represent Phillies on 2019 NL All-Star team