Something more than Jake Arrieta's ERA might be hurting.
After getting beat up by the New York Mets in the Phillies' 6-5 loss at Citi Field on Saturday night, Arrieta hinted that he might be injured. He was pressed on that a couple of times, but refused to offer more information.
He did, however, threaten to injure someone else - specifically Mets' third baseman Todd Frazier, who did not enjoy getting hit by one of Arrieta's pitches in the fifth inning.
"Frazier's not happy about it, he can come see me and I'll put a dent in his skull," Arrieta said in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse.
Frazier, who was ejected in that fifth inning, had already left the ballpark and was not around to respond to Arrieta's threat. Sunday's series finale, the last game before the All-Star break, could be interesting, not that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will be looking for a beef. He's more concerned with getting his failing team back on track before it's too late. The Phillies have lost 21 of their last 34 and squandered a 3 ½ game lead in the NL East. They are now in third place in the division, 6 ½ games back.
"It's not something that's even on my mind," Kapler said of the possibility of fireworks between the two teams on Sunday. "We're a baseball team that lost an important game. It's a disappointing loss for us. Those are the kind of games we need to win."
Arrieta could not hold an early 3-1 lead. He was tagged for 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He also hit three batters, two in the fifth inning when the Mets took control of the game on a three-run double by Tomas Nido.
"I labored physically," Arrieta said. "I wasn't able to put the ball where I wanted to. It's been that way for a few weeks. Just physically not in a great spot."
Arrieta has indeed struggled for a few weeks. His ERA over his last seven starts is 6.67. He has given up 53 hits in 38 innings over that span.
Arrieta was pressed on his comment about not being in a great spot physically.
"It's just tough," he said. "Right now, it's tough for me to put the ball where I want to. I lost feel for everything. I think I hit three guys with changeups and that's really not characteristic of kind of the way I pitch."
Arrieta was asked if he was hurt.
He responded with a lengthy pause and a sigh.
"Overall I feel all right," he finally said. "But we'll see."
He was asked about the pause.
"Overall I feel pretty good," he said. "We'll see in the next couple of days."
The next couple of days? Does he have an exam scheduled?
"No," he said. "I think we'll have a better idea over the next couple of days where I'm at."
Will the All-Star break help him?
"Yeah," Arrieta said. "Well, I mean, I don't think I've ever hit guys with changeups multiple times in a game."
Hitters usually don't take offense at being hit with off-speed pitches, but Frazier, who'd been hit by Vince Velasquez the night before, was quite upset after taking Arrieta's 0-1 changeup off the arm. Frazier had a few things to say as he walked to first base. He was ejected after protesting home plate umpire Tripp Gibson's decision to warn both teams.
Arrieta did not like some of the things Frazier was saying.
"He didn't say (crap) to me," Arrieta said. "Talking to the umpire. I'm 25 feet away. He wants to come out there, he can come out there.
"We've had pretty good history in the past, but I don't care about that. If he's mad, then we can talk about it man to man."
Arrieta hit a second batter with a changeup in the inning and that loaded the bases. Nido quickly unloaded them and Kapler went to the mound to remove Arrieta.
"He was grinding," Kapler said. "You could tell he was grinding. He didn't have his best stuff. The command wasn't there and he was fighting to get us through five or six innings, and you could see that from the very beginning."
Arrieta's season ERA is up to 4.67 in 18 starts. Over his last 27 starts, dating to August 12 when he began a late-season slide in 2018, his ERA is 5.17. The Phillies thought they were getting more than that for their three-year, $75 million investment.
Despite their recent fade in the standings, the Phils still have time to make a run. But it will be awfully difficult if Arrieta doesn't improve - or if it turns out that he's hurt.
"We all have work to do and certainly I think Jake has some work to do as well," Kapler said. "He's working on his craft all the time, looking for ways to get stronger down the stretch and we'll be leaning heavily on him. That was true early in the season and it's true now as well."
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