Baseball, it has been said many times, is a game of adjustments, and the young Phillies definitely felt a need to adjust after Tuesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at rain-soaked Citizens Bank Park. For starters, it was a major adjustment just to lose at home. The defeat ended the Phillies’ seven-game home winning streak and denied the team of a 10-1 start, which would have been the best in franchise history. Instead, they must share that distinction with the 1964 team and, trust me, that’s the only distinction they’ll want to share with Gene Mauch’s Phillies unless Jake Arrieta is going to pitch a perfect game on Father’s Day.
It was another night of whiffs, as the Phillies struck out 16 times to take over the major-league lead in strikeouts per plate appearance at 30.9 percent. The strikeout leader in the clubhouse was rookie Scott Kingery, who struck out in all four of his plate appearances as his average dipped to a season-low .216. He has just two hits in his last 25 at-bats and has struck out 12 times in that span. His 25 strikeouts for the season lead the team.
“I started swinging at balls in the dirt,” Kingery said. “That’s always been one of my weaknesses. I’m chasing a little bit right now. They’re just kind of really nibbling over the plate. They’re not really throwing me too much. They’re starting to work ahead with off-speed stuff, trying to get me to chase. So now it’s something I’m going to have to adjust to.”
If Kingery was miserable afterward, he had company. Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro struck out three times in four at-bats, bringing his total to 24 Ks in 52 plate appearances, and veteran first baseman Carlos Santana also struck out three times as his average dipped to .154.
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A duel for the ages
Prized free-agent addition Jake Arrieta will go against Arizona’s Zack Greinke in a premier pitching matchup Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Since Arrieta’s first full season with the Chicago Cubs in 2014, the 32-year-old righthander has gone 66-29 with a 2.66 ERA and averaged nine strikeouts per nine innings. Greinke, in that same span, is 68-26 with a 2.91 ERA and has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Greinke, 34, is two years older than Arrieta and has by far the better career resume with a 174-108 record and 3.41 ERA. Arrieta, whose career did not take off until he joined the Cubs in 2013, is 90-56 with a 3.55 ERA.
This will be only the second time that Arrieta and Greinke have pitched against each other. The first came Aug. 26, 2013, and Greinke, then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, got the victory by allowing just two runs on five hits in 8 2/3 innings against the Cubs. Arrieta, making just his fourth start for Chicago after being traded from Baltimore, allowed four runs on six hits in five innings.
The two did battle it out for the 2015 Cy Young Award. In fact, it was one of the closest races in major-league history. Greinke went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA for the Dodgers that season, and Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. It was the first time since Dwight Gooden and John Tudor in 1985 that two starting pitchers had ERAs less than 2.00. Arrieta won the Cy Young with 169 points, 22 more than Greinke.
So how did Gabe Kapler spend his off day Monday? At the ballpark, of course. First, the Phillies manager stopped in Berks County for a 20-ounce ribeye steak “medium rare” before going to FirstEnergy Park for double-A Reading’s game against the Akron RubberDucks. Kapler mostly wanted to see righthander Seranthony Dominguez, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Fightin Phils. The RubberDucks won, however, 7-1.
It was not just the Phillies hitters who had a rough time during Tuesday night’s loss to the Diamondbacks. Vince Velasquez could not get through the fifth inning for the first time since his season debut. He fell to 1-3 for the season by allowing four runs on four hits and two walks. It was the first time in 13 games that a Phillies starter had allowed more than three runs.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta vs. Zack Greinke, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Facebook-only broadcast, Phils vs. Arizona, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Phils open a three-game series vs. Atlanta, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillie Phanatic birthday, 1:35 p.m.
Stat of the day
Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray struck out 11 Phillies on Tuesday night, the 15th time in his career that he has recorded double-digit strikeouts. He led the league last year with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings and is the leader again this year with 14.7 strikeouts per nine. Tuesday’s start, however, marked the first time Ray ever recorded double-digit strikeouts without completing at least five innings.
From the mailbag
What do we have (in terms of catching) in the minors grab bag?
Answer: Let’s just say it is not a position of strength. The Phillies’ catchers at triple-A Lehigh Valley are Logan Moore, Nick Rickles and Matt McBride. Moore, 27, is considered a solid defensive catcher, but he has a career .222 average and .293 on-base percentage in eight minor-league seasons. Rickles is a 28-year-old journeyman with his third organization, and McBride, 32, has played in 92 major-league games. The Phillies have to hope that Jorge Alfaro improves with playing time because he is out of options anyway. For now, he will be splitting time with Andrew Knapp. It’s a position they might try to address at the trade deadline if they are in contention, but teams are as reluctant to give up good catching as they are to give up good pitching because really good catchers are becoming an endangered species.