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Pivetta on first career CG: 'One pitch at a time'

@ToddZolecki
June 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Pivetta followed arguably the best start of his career Sunday at Dodger Stadium with arguably the best start of his career Saturday against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. It is an encouraging development for the Phillies, a team that just passed on signing Dallas Keuchel. •

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Pivetta followed arguably the best start of his career Sunday at Dodger Stadium with arguably the best start of his career Saturday against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park.

It is an encouraging development for the Phillies, a team that just passed on signing Dallas Keuchel.

Box score

Pivetta pitched the first complete game of his career in Saturday afternoon’s 4-1 victory over the Reds. He allowed six hits and one run. He struck out six. After a bloop double down the right-field line and a line drive just over the glove of second baseman Cesar Hernandez in the first inning, which led to the Reds’ only run, he retired 17 consecutive batters. Since Pivetta allowed three runs in the first inning in his return to the Phillies’ rotation on May 28, he has allowed 10 hits, one run and two walks and struck out 20 in 19 innings.

“I’m excited to see what he does with the next start,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “I think his confidence is at an all-time high right now.”

Pivetta has looked and talked like a different pitcher since he posted an 8.35 ERA in his first four starts of the year and the Phillies subsequently optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in April. He is attacking the strike zone more. He seems to be living in the moment more, focusing on the next pitch, rather than the big picture or how things might unravel if something bad happens.

“One pitch at a time, one inning at a time,” Pivetta said. “If I get ahead of myself, in the past it hasn’t gone my way. More settling in and thinking one at a time.”

“He’s just on the attack more,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “He’s working with the same stuff. He’s just doing a great job of getting ahead of hitters and being able to put them away when he gets ahead. Early in the season, I feel like when he did get to two-strike counts he wasn’t executing down in the zone, he was leaving balls up a lot. Now when he gets two strikes, almost every breaking ball is to the bottom of the zone or under it. That’s a huge difference for him, being able to get ahead and put hitters away.”

Pivetta allowed three hits and struck out nine in six scoreless innings last weekend in Los Angeles. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said his players were thrilled when Pivetta left the game because they felt they finally had a chance to score.

The Reds felt similarly Saturday.

“Best start of his career,” Reds starter Tanner Roark said.

But success can be fleeting. Pivetta knows this. The Phillies know it, too.

They have seen flashes of dominance from Pivetta in the past.

“I’ve still got to keep going,” Pivetta said. “I’ve still got a lot of room to make up.”

Phillies left fielder Jay Bruce hit a two-out single to right-center field to score two runs in the first inning to hand the Phillies a one-run lead. Realmuto hit a solo homer in the fourth and Jean Segura tripled to score Bryce Harper in the fifth.

Pivetta handled the rest.

“Nick came out and was the pitcher that we all anticipated he might be at the beginning of the season,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think the experience of being back at Lehigh Valley was a humbling one for him, and I think since then he’s done exactly what we’ve asked him to do, which is pound the zone with all of his pitches.”

The Phillies can sweep the Reds with a victory in Sunday’s series finale. They have followed a five-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak.

“Isn't it funny?” Hoskins said. “It kind of feels like a long time ago. But I think that's kind of how we've been this whole year. We've lost a couple in a row and it seems like we bounce back right away. Obviously you don't want to get swept, but to get swept for the first time in June and then bounce back right away and win four straight, not laying down after getting swept in L.A. and then losing the first one in San Diego the way that we did, I think it just says a lot about resilience. Usually the sign of a good team.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .