“Welcome home from work! Go play with your kids or talk to a neighbor or just frolic in the sunshine!” That’s what I imagine the Phillies were collectively telling us with this game. You probably couldn’t watch the beginning and by the time you could watch there wasn’t a point.
This game was over early. I could tell because in the third inning John Kruk suggested that Daniel Descalso run from first on a 3-2 count “just to work on things.” You know, because the Phillies are a summer-long spring training squad. The score at that point was 5-0. By the end of the inning it would be 6-0 and the Phillies starting pitcher, Nick Pivetta, would be done for the afternoon.
Pivetta lasted just 8 outs, walking 5, K-ing 3, and allowing 7 hits, i.e., almost as many as outs. It was a terrible start for a young pitcher riding a small wave of success. In his previous two outings he’d blanked the Red Sox for 7 innings and dominated the Cardinals to a tune of 10 Ks to 1 BB. In those games, he threw his fastball for strikes and kept hitters off-balance with a slider, curveball, changeup mix. By way of contrast, today Pivetta could not control, let alone command, his fastball, and his secondary pitches became ineffective as a result. The problem announced itself from the first batter. Pivetta worked ahead of Chris Hermann 0-2 with fastballs in the zone but not particularly well located. Hermann wasted a few fastballs and took others to get back even in the count. Pivetta couldn’t put him away. Then, on the last pitch, Pivetta grooved a fastball a little above the knees and right down the middle. Hermann slashed it into the right-center pool where some Phillies fans were partying. (They dutifully threw the ball back.) Pivetta bounced back in that first inning, fanning two. But the signs of his unravelling were already present. For the next inning and a third it would be a struggle for him just to keep his fastball in the zone, let alone keep it off of barrels. If not for a double play following three consecutive walks in the second, Pivetta probably wouldn’t have made it into the third inning at all.
The suspense of the game was neutered early, but that’s not to say the Phillies didn’t have a chance to make it interesting. Diamondbacks starter, Zack Greinke, did not have his command to start the contest either. Daniel Nava led off the game with single. Freddy Galvis followed that with an at-bat where he saw exactly 2 of 7 pitches in the zone. Unfortunately, Galvis swung at all but 2 of those pitches. He did manage to crush the last one to centerfield, but Rey Fuentes cruised underneath it. Aaron Altherr would then single to keep the pressure on Greinke. But in the end, Greinke channelled his inner Monica Seles and grunted his way out of the inning. (Literally, he was grunting on every pitch. I’ve never noticed him doing this before.)
That inning was particularly frustrating because two of the outs came in at-bats that should have been walks. I’ve already mentioned Galvis’s at-bat. The other was Odubel Herrera’s. Herrera got ahead 3-1 by taking close pitches. But once the count went 3-2 Herrera swung at everything, close or not. Surprisingly, Herrera made contact with a lot of those pitches and made Greinke work. But eventually Greinke caught on, bounced a slider in front of the plate, and watched Herrera wave at it vainly. Herrera has had a stellar June thanks to an outrageous (but mostly earned) BABIP. If he wants to avoid these swings from abyss to peak, he needs to turn those kinds of at-bats into walks. Despite how well he’s hit this month, he’s still barely walking.
After the third inning, where Pivetta finally fell apart, the game turned on the autopilot. Greinke cruised until the fifth, where his struggles returned, he surrendered a run, and ended his outing short. Daniel Nava, who had a good game, drove in that run. Hoby Milner and Ricardo Pinto both got their second chances to make an impression in the bigs and fared better than in their first. But for the most part it was just professional baseball played by professionals and indistinguishable from the myriad of other games this afternoon. (What’s that? There was only one other game this afternoon because afternoon games on Mondays are like drive-in movie showings on an off-shore oil rig? Oh. Well, maybe that’s for the best.)
The Phillies move on from Arizona and head to Washington to face the Mariners. Everyone say, “Hi, Chooch!”