PHILADELPHIA >> Just like what he hopes the current common Phillies fan is going through now, Jake Arrieta had trouble getting to sleep Tuesday night.
Relieved of dugout duty due to what lately has been a restrictive and difficult Phillies schedule, Arrieta got home in time to tune his television into the what was supposed to be the late innings of his team’s game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his working orders such that he was supposed to be in bed early in preparation for his start Wednesday in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park.
“We’re playing at 12:30 (Wednesday), and it’s a 16-inning game,” Arrieta said of the Phillies’ long Tuesday night’s journey into the wee hours for a win. “You know, I was in the house in the ninth, trying to stay awake. Then I was trying to get some sleep. But man, I want to see how this game ends. Then my wife wakes me up and says, ‘Plouffe hit a walkoff.’ I’m like, really? ... And off Kike Hernandez?
“Crazy scenario. But that’s kind of what you expect in 16 innings. Position players get in the game. We toughed that one out. And we came out today and most of our guys had four, five, six hours sleep at the most, but we’re winning a tough series. And that’s really huge for us.”
Less than 12 hours after recent minor league promotee and unlikely hero Trevor Plouffe’s three-run home run in the 16th inning had allowed the Phillies to even the series deal with the Dodgers, Arrieta was leading them back again Wednesday afternoon, going six strong innings to oversee a 7-3 victory.
Maybe it’s the late July date, or the increasingly interested and growing crowds that in the past couple of weeks have been finding their way to Citizens Bank Park, or their own growing confidence. But these Phillies are starting to believe.
“We have to win series like this, especially at home against teams like the Dodgers if we intend to keep this thing going the way we are,” Arrieta said. “We haven’t lacked confidence really at all this season. There’s certain things that have happened that have maybe boosted our confidence a little bit. But we know we’re good. We’ve shown it throughout the season, from April all the way to now at the end of July. It’s just our job now to continue this pace and keep playing good baseball.”
Arrieta (8-6, 3.45) assessed he was “a lot better than last time out,” but was only one component of a Phillies effort that continued the trend of overcoming obvious personnel shortcomings.
On this day Arrieta would receive support from Victor Arano (a perfect seventh inning with two strikeouts), Adam Morgan (no runs, one hit over ⅔ of an inning) and finally Seranthony Dominguez, who started out by throwing two wild pitches and also served up two walks but ended up with a scoreless, hitless 1.1 inning stint for his 10th save.
Arrieta leads a starting rotation that has had setbacks but overall is very solid. But it’s also received stunning support from a bullpen that has turned itself around. The Phillies’ relievers have the best ERA in the National League in July, and overall the pitching staff’s 3.19 ERA was second only to these Dodgers this month.
“We have found a way to get that big hit when we needed,” shortstop Scott Kingery said. “We kind of feed off each other. Someone gets a big hit and the next thing you know, someone comes in and follows that up in the same fashion.
“Obviously our bullpen was outstanding, starting pitching was great, everything was just clicking in this series and we had a chance to win all three games, which is what you want.”
Not that there aren’t other issues for Trader Matt Klentak to soon address.
The Phillies have had trouble scoring runs (though not so much lately). They have daily defensive issues (three errors in this game). And outside of Plouffe taking an infielder-turned-pitcher (Hernandez) deep for a walk-off home run and a 7-4 Tuesday-into-Wednesday win, the Phils’ bench has been fairly maligned all season.
Yet they just keep winning.
“Yeah, another series win,” said Rhys Hoskins, whose game-tying first-inning homer was his 18th of the season and fourth in five games. “We’ve been on a roll with that lately. That’s a good team over there, but like I said at the start of the series, we’re a good team, too. I think we’re past the narrative of, ‘Are we a good team?’
“To be able to take two of three from the Dodgers, take two of three from the Padres as well, I think we’re here to stay and it’s exciting. We got a lot of good contributions from everybody this whole series. A complete team series win.”