Jake Arrieta returned to the Phillies dugout after the third inning and made a guarantee to manager Gabe Kapler. The pitcher, making his first regular-season start Sunday since arriving on a $75 million deal, had worked a high pitch count after a shaky first inning of a 6-3 loss to Miami at Citizens Bank Park. Arrieta knew he was reaching his limit.
"'I'll get through it in 10 pitches or less," Arrieta told Kapler before returning for the fourth.
The pitcher delivered, needing exactly 10 pitches to retire the three batters he faced in the fourth. His outing started with some questions after a three-run first, but it ended with promise. Arrieta did not allow a hit after the first inning and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. He threw 74 pitches and his velocity was fine. Arrieta's four innings provided some hope.
"I think as the game went on, he got stronger and stronger with his command and location and his rhythm," Kapler said.
The first hit Arrieta allowed was a solo homer by Miguel Rojas, the game's second batter. Rojas connected on a 92 mph sinker that stayed up and in. Later in the inning, Braxton Lee drove in a pair of runs on a two-out bloop single to left field. One of the runs was unearned because the previous batter had reached on catcher's interference.
The inning might have ended earlier when Justin Bour singled on a grounder to the left side. But shortstop J.P. Crawford could not field the potential double-play ball because he was shifted on the other side of second base. Three runs scored but misfortune seemed to play a role. Kapler said he can pull up "a whole bunch" of videos showing times the shifts have saved the Phillies. Crawford said that's how they play and "we're not going to change anything, I don't think."
"It is frustrating," Arrieta said of the shift. "You make a good pitch, you get the result based on the pitch, but it doesn't necessarily work out. But the numbers show with the shifts, guys hit a ball in certain areas a huge percentage of the time and that's why you see just about every team in the league playing in those sort of shifts. It could have very easily been more up the middle and could have gotten a double-play ball that way. It's just one of those things where baseballs fall in so many different spots, it's hard to account for everywhere."
The Phillies quickly recovered from the three runs Arrieta allowed in the first. Carlos Santana drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first and Nick Williams, starting for the third time this season, followed with an RBI single. Rhys Hoskins doubled in Odubel Herrera in the third. But that was all they could do.
The bullpen coughed it up with a three-run eighth. Luis Garcia started the inning by hitting Rojas in the back and walking Starlin Castro. Adam Morgan replaced him and struck out Bour, but then the runners advanced on a passed ball by Andrew Knapp. The catcher said it was just a change-up that got away from him. Brian Anderson doubled to the right-field gap to drive in both runners. Bryan Holaday singled in Anderson and the Marlins had enough.
It was a late-inning letdown but not enough to spoil a strong weekend after a challenging first week. The Phillies arrived home with four losses in their first five games. They responded by winning their first series of the season. And they took the loss on Sunday but were able to feel some hope after the big-ticket pitcher they signed last month fulfilled his first promise of the season.