Good morning, Phillies fans, and welcome to another edition of Extra Innings. The Phillies missed a chance to reach .500 yesterday, but they still were able to earn their first series victory of the season by taking two of three from the hapless Marlins. Maikel Franco looked good, Rhys Hoskins continued his strong start, and Jake Arrieta pitched strong after a shaky first inning. They have another chance to win a series starting tonight when the struggling Reds come to Citizens Bank Park to start a three-game set. The Phillies have to hope they have some runs left after scoring 28 in their three games against Miami.
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Arrieta’s ready to pitch deeper
Jake Arrieta offered some promise after his shaky first inning Sunday, as he retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced and did not allow a hit after that first inning. He was limited by his pitch count as the Phillies did not want to push him past 75 pitches in his season debut. Arrieta threw 74 and will get pushed deeper in his next start, which should fall on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. Arrieta expects to throw 10 or 15 more pitches in his second start. The Phillies were rightfully cautious with Arrieta as they did not need to push their $75 million investment to the limit in his first start after the pitcher had missed most of spring training. Arrieta allowed three runs, two of which were earned, as his first-inning struggles from last season continued. Arrieta had a 5.10 ERA in the first inning last season after having success in the first throughout his career. It’s something to watch for as the season continues.
“I had a couple three-ball counts in the first inning, and that’s obviously something you’re trying to avoid to set the tone and also keep the pitch count down,” Arrieta said. “Moving forward, you want to put up a goose egg in the first to set the tone for the ballclub. That’s something I definitely look forward to working on.”
Nick Williams created some buzz after the home opener when he aired his dismay about not being in the lineup and wondered if a computer was dictating who started. Williams met with Gabe Kapler for a “heart to heart,” and both parties came to an understanding. The first public disruption of the Kapler Era lasted just a few hours.
J.P. Crawford is off to a rough start, and he said he’s had trouble keeping his swing short. The Phillies and Crawford both point to how he started his season in a slump last year before busting out. But that was at triple A. It’s highly doubtful that the Phillies can show the same patience that the IronPigs did. Crawford needs to start hitting, or his playing time could be at risk.
The highlight of the weekend was the 20 runs the Phillies scored Saturday night behind grand slams from Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr. Franco drove in 11 runs in the series and looks to have found himself at the plate because of a new stance and a new approach. He closed his feet in his stance this spring and is working deeper counts. The season is not yet two weeks old, so there’s no guarantee this will last. But it’s a good start.
Tonight: Ben Lively vs. Cody Reed, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola vs. Homer Bailey, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta vs. Luis Castillo, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Off day
Friday: Phillies begin series at Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
Victor Arano struck out two of the three batters he faced in Sunday’s ninth inning and has retired each of the 12 batters he has faced this season. The righthander has five strikeouts in four innings. Dating to last season, opposing hitters are batting .120 (6 for 50) against Arano. The 23-year-old has an effective fastball-slider combination and could play a key role in the bullpen.
From the mailbag
Question for the newsletter: if Manny Machado remains a target for the Phillies front office this upcoming off-season, is it possible he replaces JP Crawford at shortstop, especially if Maikel Franco continues to hit this season?
— Dan May (@dannmaal) April 5, 2018
Answer: We’re still seven months away from free agency, but it is pretty clear that the Phillies will make a run at Machado. Where does he fit? We’ll have a better idea once the season progresses. It’s way too early to write off Crawford and way too early to make a statement on Franco. Machado has moved to shortstop this season, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be taking over for Crawford. Crawford showed last season that he can play third. Check back around July and we’ll have a better idea of where Machado, if he joins the Phillies, could fit.