MIAMI – This was a night that Jake Arrieta needed. It was a night that Cesar Hernandez needed. And it was really a night the Phillies needed.
Arrieta bounced back from a poor outing in his previous start and slumping Hernandez made a huge offensive contribution to lead the Phillies to a 9-4 win over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night (see first take).
Victories have been scarce for the Phillies lately. This one was just their 10th in the last 27 games but it came on a night when the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves lost to the Boston Red Sox. That means the Phillies will go into Wednesday night's game against the Marlins trailing the Braves by just three games in the division. The Phillies will be looking for their first series win since early August. Nick Pivetta will be their starting pitcher. In two starts against Miami this season, he has allowed just two runs in 11 2/3 innings. He has struck out 16 and walked none.
Pivetta hopes to get some of the run support that Arrieta got on Tuesday night.
The Phillies had scored a total of just three runs in losing their previous three games entering Tuesday night. They had just four base runners in Monday's 3-1 loss to the Marlins. The Phils blew past both of those numbers in the first inning Tuesday night. They had six base runners and scored four runs in the first inning.
"I think we probably feel a lot more confidence having had this game," manager Gabe Kapler said.
Kapler used Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot for the fifth time this season and Santana immediately responded with a tone-setting leadoff homer in the first inning.
Hernandez had been the leadoff hitter for most of the season but a recent slump caused Kapler to move him around. He'd hit third recently. He'd also hit ninth. In this game, Hernandez hit seventh. He came to the plate against Miami starter Trevor Richards with the bases loaded in the first inning and delivered a three-run triple.
"I thought the Cesar triple was especially notable and it was notable because it was a hit we've been missing," Kapler said. "It wasn't quite a kill shot at that point, but it was the ball that we just haven't driven into the gap or down the line for extra bases with the bases juiced, so a really quality performance by Cesar."
Hernandez was on base four times with two hits and two walks. He had entered the game hitting .189 (23 for 122) in his previous 31 games. His on-base percentage was .298 over that span and his slugging percentage was .270.
Before the game, Hernandez received some counsel from Santana.
"Every time you talk to one of your teammates, it's really good," Hernandez said. "That's something we have going on in this clubhouse. We all look out for each other. We all help each other. Something Santana told me was to try to remember what I was doing earlier in the season. I was very successful. There have been a few games where I wasn't hitting the ball well. So he just told me to calm down, try to remember what I was doing before. And, yeah, it helped."
Said Kapler, "We've moved Cesar around into a couple different spots in the lineup, made him a little uncomfortable, and he's been just a pro and an excellent teammate through all of that. I'm sure it was a huge weight off his shoulders to come through big for us and help us win that game."
Asdrubal Cabrera also drove in three runs with a double and a homer. Santana was on base three times and drove in a pair.
Would Kapler consider using Santana in the leadoff spot again Wednesday night?
"It's really interesting because in some ways you'd say consistency would be running the same lineup back out there, but really, I think the consistent move is to examine the lineup and see what makes sense for tomorrow," he said.
Arrieta lasted only three innings in his previous start against Washington. He threw 75 pitches in that game and got just one swing and miss. He threw 108 pitches over 7 1/3 innings in this outing and got 18 swing and misses, mostly with his sinker and curveball. He struck out a season-high 11.
"What a gutsy performance by Jake," Kapler said. "Proven, battle-tested veteran pitcher. We got him the lead and he knew exactly what to do with it."
There are 24 games remaining in the regular season. The Phillies play seven of their final 11 against Atlanta, but they must stay close to the Braves for those games to have meaning.
"We know that Atlanta is playing Boston," Arrieta said. "But we need to handle business here. Tonight we took care of business."