Before the season started, baseball analysts around the country addressed the Phillies need for another starting pitcher. Many words were penned on the topic as just one starter, Aaron Nola, surpassed 10 wins in 2017.
The Phillies acquired former NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta with a three-year, $75 million deal. Arrieta reached 10 wins or more in each of his past four seasons for the Cubs. He’s off to a 3-1 start with the Phillies through seven starts with a 2.59 ERA.
But what wasn’t expected was the emergence of a dominant starter within. Nick Pivetta, who finished second on the team in wins with an 8-10 record in 2017, is off to a hot start in 2018. Through nine starts, Pivetta holds a 3-2 record with a 3.72 ERA and a team-high 53 strikeouts. He’s had a much better knack to get hitters into ground ball or pop fly situations as his ERA has dipped 2.30 points from his 6.02 ERA a year ago.
On Wednesday, Pivetta notched a career-high 11 strikeouts through seven innings in a 4-1 Phillies win. The 10 fly ball outs he forced were a season high.
“You have to have dominating stuff to dominate. He has dominant stuff, the kind of stuff that can wipe out the opposition,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Pivetta. “Today is one of those days that you can dream on, like what if he really puts it all together and is able to do this start in and start out? And we’re starting to see that consistency. A track record is beginning to develop, and once you have a track record, you have dependability, which is really exciting.”
The Phillies have the beginnings of a three-headed monster. Phillies starters have allowed three or fewer runs in nine consecutive games. Nola, Arrieta and Pivetta are a huge part of that.
The last time the Phillies gave up more than three runs ironically was Pivetta’s worst outing of the season. He gave up six runs through just one inning in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals. Bryce Harper homered twice off of him. He’s given up just one run through 12 innings in his two outings since while striking out 18.
“I think he has the ability to go out and do that every time,” Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp said of Pivetta’s outing. “He's become very consistent with all four of his pitches. The spin rate on the fastball, you just can't catch up to it at the top of the zone, so when he can do that and throw offspeed off of it, it's a really lethal combination.”
The Phillies (24-16) start a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals (23-17) on Thursday. All games will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia.