Jake Arrieta’s Sunday afternoon began on a high note. He finally stopped the Phillies’ embarrassing 22-inning scoreless streak that dated back to Thursday night in Los Angeles by cranking his sixth career home run:
Exactly how we expected the 22-inning scoreless streak to end…
With a JAKE ARRIETA HR! pic.twitter.com/KD7dFe7G4I
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) June 3, 2018
Arrieta also faced the minimum amount of Giants hitters through five innings, using three double plays to his advantage as he appeared well on his way to yet another dominant performance.
Then, the sixth inning happened.
A one-out Gorkys Hernández single was followed by an Allen Hanson tapper to shortstop. Scott Kingery went to first with the throw (more on this in a minute) but was slow on the transfer, which allowed Hanson to beat it out. Joe Panik and Buster Posey followed with a pair of RBI singles before Andrew McCutchen delivered a three-run deathblow of a homer to right. Just like that, the Phillies were swept out of San Francisco. Three games. Three losses. One run scored.
After the game, a visibly agitated Arrieta addressed his frustrations regarding a wide range of issues:
Jake Arrieta is not happy about the #Phillies play in San Francisco. “Overall, it’s just really a horse—- series. Really bad, really bad.” Criticized Phillies’ defensive shifts as worst in baseball.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) June 3, 2018
Here is an extended sampling of Arrieta’s comments:
Here is a portion of Jake Arrieta’s postgame comments today, courtesy of @JSalisburyNBCS. Criticizes Phillies defensive shifts, Kingery’s decision-making and general lack of offense in series vs. Giants. pic.twitter.com/6DvpJwdXBU
— Sean Kane (@SKaneNBCS) June 3, 2018
Translation: These shifts are bullshit, this offense is bullshit, and the lack of accountability from the coaching staff is bullshit. If we keep this up, we’re screwed.
I’m sure there are going to be people out there that ride Arrieta’s ass for unloading on his teammates and the coaching staff. It’s true that he was probably walking a fine line between throwing his team under the bus and showing the no nonsense tough love one would expect from one of the team’s few veteran leaders, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Who else is going to speak up, Carlos Santana? Not after his leisurely first inning stroll to first base that likely cost the Phillies an early run. Part of the supposed benefit in bringing Arrieta here was to establish a tone and set a winning example. His words may have been critical, his tone harsh, but this is what they signed up for.
This game wasn’t about a three-run homer. It was about a lack of energy, a team-wide lack of focus, and what I believe he correctly perceives as a lack of accountability permeating throughout the clubhouse. The Phillies were shut down by Chris Stratton and Andrew Suarez, two mediocre pitchers who came into the series sporting ERAs hovering around the 5.00 mark, before losing to Dereck Rodriguez in his first Major League start. In other words, they weren’t exactly up against prime Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner this weekend. There is absolutely no excuse for the Phillies’ offense consistently and carelessly throwing away at-bats, chasing non-competitive pitches out of the strike zone, and showing a maddening lack of plate discipline and approach. It was a pathetic display, even for an offense that has spent much of this season struggling to generate consistent production, and it deserved to be criticized.
As for his frustration over the Phillies’ continued implementation of failing defensive shifts? They have been comically bad all season:
Jake Arrieta had harsh words about the Phillies performance in defensive shifts.
Phillies do rank last in our Shift Runs Saved stat (-11 entering today)
Only one other team rates negative- Dodgers are -1
— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) June 3, 2018
It was just a matter of time before someone finally spoke up, and don’t think for one second this was Arrieta going rogue. He was almost certainly speaking on behalf of the entire pitching staff. How many times this season has a guy made a quality pitch that appears to be a routine out off the bat, only to see the ball squirt through what would typically be an occupied space? That takes both a physical and mental toll on pitchers who have worked the majority of this season with little margin for error. Shifts are meant to increase the likelihood of outs and save runs, and this team’s alignments have consistently produced the opposite result.
Yeah, I guess I am a bit surprised that he went after Kingery for not going to second base on the Hanson grounder. As many have been quick to point out, Kingery is a rookie playing mostly out of position in the infant stages of his career. It’s a less than ideal situation to be thrust into. At the same time, this is the situation, and he needs to figure it out. It’s still baseball and the fundamental concepts of the middle infield aren’t foreign to Kingery. It’s expected that a Major League infielder be able to think through every possible outcome and know where to go with the baseball. Maybe Arrieta’s public criticism kicks his ass into gear, or maybe it puts more pressure on a struggling young player who already appears to be pressing. Time will tell.
Arrieta has reached both the highest levels of individual and team success at the Major League level. He has earned the right to say what he wants when he’s speaking the truth. I would imagine he sees a team that has the arms to remain competitive throughout the summer in spite of its offense. I would also imagine he sees the Phillies’ next 25 games are against teams with winning records and knows they have arrived at a turning point as they fly to Chicago to begin an important gut check series against his former team. We’ll see if his words have their intended effect.