PHOENIX -- Jake Arrieta had one primary takeaway from Tuesday night’s game, an 8-4 Phillies loss to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
“I would’ve liked to go one more” inning, he said.
In this case, though, taking out Arrieta after five innings was a no-brainer. His spot in the batting order came up in the sixth, and with one out and a runner on first base, manager Gabe Kapler recognized an opportunity to build on a one-run lead.
It didn’t happen, even though pinch-hitter Roman Quinn singled to extend a rally in which the Phillies left the bases loaded, as Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper struck out. And the bullpen gave away the lead and then some over the next two innings.
But Kapler neither second-guessed his decision to lift Arrieta nor was irritated that the veteran right-hander wanted to stay in the game despite a painful bone spur in his right elbow that will require surgery and is forcing the Phillies to be conservative in how hard they push him.
"These aren't easy reads," Kapler said Wednesday.
And the Phillies don’t have a firm set of “Arrieta Rules” for when to pull him.
Arrieta seems to hit a wall after about five innings. He has a 3.62 earned-run average through four innings this season, and a 6.20 ERA after that.
He admits that his elbow tends to stiffen up at various times in a game, particularly during long breaks, causing him to lose velocity and command. As such, he has pitched into the sixth inning only once since the end of June. His pitch count in his last six starts: 75, 88, 87, 79, 71, and 80.
The Phillies have several relievers capable of pitching multiple innings behind Arrieta, including converted starter Zach Eflin. Arrieta has acknowledged that Eflin could be used in a piggyback situation to help the team get through his starts.
But Kapler said that removing Arrieta after five innings isn’t a reflex. There will be times, based on the situation and the amount of duress Arrieta is under, when he will go longer.
"We definitely will take this outing into consideration, and I’ll definitely talk to Jake at some point and just say, ‘Understanding that you wanted to go back out there, what are some of the additional steps we can take to make sure that you’re good for another inning and that we make the best decision for all of us?’ " Kapler said. “It’s not easy. This is tricky. But, if he shows us he can stay strong through 80 to 85, 90 to 95 pitches, we’re going to have to adjust the other way, too.”
That's about all Arrieta can ask.
"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."