For the first five innings of Sunday's series final between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, Jake Arrieta was dominant. The Giants tallied just three hits, while being shut out by the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner through five frames. Arrieta even launched a 375-foot home run in the top of second, giving the Phillies their first (and only) run of a three-game set against the Giants.
Things unraveled for Arrieta in the sixth, however. Andrew McCutchen sliced a three-run home run inside the right field foul pole, which came after RBIs from Gorkys Hernandez and Joe Panik. In total, the Giants scored five of their six runs in the sixth inning. Arrieta, who looked early in the game as though he could pitch a complete game, was pulled after the inning. The Phillies offense didn't bail Arrieta out, as they totaled just one hit after the sixth inning.
The Phillies boarded a plane shortly after the game to head to Chicago, as they'll square off with the Cubs from Tuesday though Thursday. Before the Phillies travel to the city that Arrieta won a World Series in, the All-Star candidate voiced his displeasure with how the series panned out and the team's defensive alignment:
Jake Arrieta described himself as furious, said Phillies defensive shifts are worst in the league. "We need to change that. Copy the best. That's not my job." Said needs to be accountability check "top to bottom," after "horse-bleep" series.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) June 3, 2018
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
Arrieta pointed to Kingery's play on a ground ball from Alec Hanson as the one that upset him. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what play set Arrieta off regarding the shifts. Perhaps there wasn't just one play, and Arrieta figured that with the Phillies in the midst of a 3-7 stretch, there wouldn't be a better time to air his grievances. For what it is worth, Sports Info Solutions says that the Phillies -11 shift runs saved is by far the worst mark in the league, 10 runs worse than the Dodgers, the only other team with a negative mark.
Does there need to be an internal discussion about how the Phillies utilize shifts? Probably. Shifts work, but the way the Phillies are aligned isn't working. But that's a discussion that needs to be had behind closed doors, not through the media.
Some have interpreted the "top to bottom" portion of his quote as having been a jab at manager Gabe Kapler. Perhaps it was partially was. But general manager Matt Klentak and Andy Galdi, the Phillies director of baseball research and development, are among those that take part in the collaborative process of putting the team in what they believe is the best position to win.
Still, there is a bit of a DeMarco Murray-Chip Kelly feeling here. The Phillies, who haven't had a winning season since 2011, are still five games above .500. But there's been more contentious moments this season than one would hope for. Nick Williams, half joking, suggested that the "computers" were the reason he wasn't in the lineup frequently early in the season. An anonymous player told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that the team would rebound from a 1-4 start, they just needed "the manager to get out of the way." Injured reliever Pat Neshek was very public in chronicling the early confusion in the Phillies clubhouse with roles that pitchers were going to come into. He told USA Today's Bob Nightengale that while Kapler didn't lose the clubhouse early on, players felt that Kapler was managing the first week of the season like it was the postseason. And now this.
One theory that will certainly make its way around the next few days is that Arrieta was upset with being pulled after three innings on May 18 in St. Louis. While Arrieta had given up four runs in three innings, just two of them were earned. Arrieta could have conceivably settled in, and the Phillies, down just four, had six innings to get back in the game. Instead, Arrieta was pulled, only for his replacement, Drew Hutchison, to give up five earned runs in three innings. The Phillies went on to lose 12-4. For the second time in as many months, utility-man Pedro Florimon came on to finish a blowout. Fans may enjoy the novelty of utility players pitching in blowouts, but ask Chase Utley how cute veterans think position players pitching is.
Then again, the case could be made that Kapler was preserving Arrieta, 32, hoping the Phillies will be competitive the entire season and into the playoffs. Arrieta may not agree with that case, but there's one to be made. In any event, Arrieta posted an 0.90 ERA in five starts in May. He may have been annoyed that he was pulled early in a start in mid-May, but that alone likely didn't cause this level of frustration.
The Phillies scored one run in a three-game series in San Francisco, which came off of the bat of a pitcher. They did take two of four in Los Angeles, but the lasting memory of the series may have been an eighth inning meltdown in the first game of the series. It, of course, is frustrating for a team with this talent level not to be hitting, especially given how well the starting pitching has performed for much of the season. But this just feels like something more.