ST. LOUIS -- Nick Pivetta lasted only five innings in the sixth start of his big league career Saturday at Busch Stadium. It has become the norm.
"I'm getting there," Pivetta insisted after a 7-0 loss to the Cardinals. "I'm working hard, I'm staying positive and I know I'm going to do better than this. I know I can do this, because I've done it at every other level and I've had flashes of it."
Pivetta allowed four hits, four runs, four walks and struck out two Cardinals. The rookie balked home a run, but he also picked off two baserunners. Pivetta has not pitched more than five innings in any start, and he is 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA.
Most noticeably, the pinpoint command Pivetta had at Triple-A Lehigh Valley has not translated to the big leagues.
Pivetta walked two and struck out 37 in 32 innings (0.56 walks per nine innings) with the IronPigs. He has walked 16 and struck out 27 in 29 1/3 innings (4.91 walks per nine innings) with the Phillies. It has led to bloated pitch counts and Pivetta leaving games much earlier than expected.
"Not getting ahead of guys," Pivetta explained of the differences between the IronPigs and Phillies. "It's just a lack of concentration maybe from time to time, but it's just unacceptable. Walking [Dexter] Fowler on four pitches [to start the fourth inning] -- that just can't happen."
Pivetta faced only 10 batters in the first three innings, ending the first and second innings on pickoffs, becoming the first Phillies right-hander to do that in a game since Freddie Toliver against the Cubs on Aug. 20, 1987.
Pivetta was pitching well, but after he walked Fowler on four pitches in the fourth, Pivetta allowed back-to-back doubles to Stephen Piscotty and Jedd Gyorko to hand the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Pivetta got two outs, but he then balked home Gyorko.
"That was just the classic speeding up too much," Pivetta said. "I'll get better. I know I will. I need time and I need to go about it a different way."
"He has stuff to be a real good pitcher," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It's all about consistency and being able to perform over nine innings, but I like his stuff. He's taking his lumps. This is his first exposure to the big leagues. It's not easy. He's learning quickly that you can't make a lot of mistakes at this level."
Of course, Pivetta could have pitched a gem and it would not have mattered, as Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez absolutely dominated the Phillies, sending the club to its fourth consecutive loss following a short-lived four-game winning streak.
"The entire season has been a season of streaks, more losing than winning," Mackanin said, "but we have put six wins together and four together. That's the whole key to success here. You have to be consistent all the time. When you have consistency from your pitchers and your hitters give you quality at-bats more often, that's where you want to be."
Pivetta hopes to provide some consistency beginning with his next start Thursday at home against the Red Sox.