PHOENIX -- Jake Arrieta wanted one more inning.
If the Phillies’ offense had scored a few more early runs, or if Arrieta did not have a marble-sized bone spur in his right elbow that has affected his performance, maybe the right-hander starts the sixth inning of Tuesday night's 8-4 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.
But after Arrieta worked out of a jam to preserve a one-run lead in the fifth, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler pinch-hit for Arrieta in the sixth and asked their patchwork bullpen to protect the lead the rest of the way.
The bullpen lost the lead immediately, dropping the Phillies into the second National League Wild Card spot, one game behind the Nationals. The Cardinals, Brewers and surging Mets are not far behind. The loss left Arrieta wondering what might have been had he remained in the game. Does he think the outcome might have been different?
“Well, yeah,” said Arrieta, who hasn't recorded a win since June 30. “But Ranger [Suarez] could have easily gone out there and thrown up a zero. I could easily see him going out there unscathed, preserve the lead, hand it to the next guy and we win the ballgame. It’s just one of those nights where they grinded it out a little better than we did.”
Arrieta has a 3.62 ERA through four innings this season, but a 6.20 ERA from the fifth and beyond. The fifth is about the time his elbow starts to bother him. In recent starts, he has lost velocity and command of his pitches.
“There are going to be times where it’s smart to take me out, and there are also going to be times where it’s smart to continue to let me go, even though it’s not comfortable,” Arrieta said. “I’m OK with that. I would have liked one more, but it’s all right.”
Arrieta allowed a one-out single to D-backs starter Mike Leake and a double to Jarrod Dyson to put runners on second and third with one out in the fifth. Then, Bryce Harper made a fantastic diving catch in shallow right field for the second out. Harper’s sprint speed on the play was 30.8 feet per second, which is elite territory, according to Statcast. His season average is 28.2 feet per second.
Kapler jogged to the mound for a quick chat, but he did an almost immediate 180-degree spin once he got there.
“His exact words were, ‘I’m coming out here just to make sure you’re OK,’” Arrieta said. “I said, ‘I’m fine.’”
“I had no plans of staying out there for very long,” Kapler said. “I just wanted to look at him for a second, make sure that he was good and there was no question that he was.”
Arrieta threw a first-pitch changeup to Eduardo Escobar, who popped out in foul territory to end the inning.
Arrieta threw only 80 pitches, but after Adam Haseley singled with one out in the sixth, the Phillies sent Roman Quinn to the plate. Quinn's pinch-hit single put runners on first and second. The Phillies loaded the bases, but Rhys Hoskins and Harper both struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Phillies went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 12 runners on base.
“I need to be better,” Hoskins said. “We obviously have some pretty good hitters in our lineup. I don’t know if pitchers just bear down more because of the hitters that we have, I don’t know. But I think it starts with me, especially if I’m going to hit toward the top of the lineup. Plain and simple, I need to be better. If I’m better, we win that game.”
Suarez, who is a recently converted starter, allowed a single and two consecutive walks to load the bases with one out in the sixth. Alex Avila’s single to right scored two runs to give Arizona a 4-3 lead. Right-hander Blake Parker, who joined the team after the Twins designated him for assignment late last month, allowed three runs in the seventh, including a two-run homer to David Peralta. Zach Eflin, who is another recently converted starter, allowed a solo homer to Avila in the eighth.
“I started out really good, things were crisp,” Arrieta said. “Location was really good. It started to get to me a little bit after the third, but I still feel like I would have liked to go one more. … Yeah, I would have liked one more, but they decided to pinch-hit for me. It just didn’t work out.”