Jake Arrieta walked to the dugout after the third inning of Tuesday night's 6-0 loss to the Yankees and carried a feeling that has become all too familiar for the Phillies starter.
His outing unraveled four batters earlier when Cesar Hernandez botched a double-play turn at second base that would have ended the inning. The error led to three runs, all of which were unearned. And the game's tide shifted.
The three runs pushed Arrieta's total of unearned runs to a major-league-leading 14. That is nearly half of the total of 29 unearned runs he gave up over the last four seasons with the Cubs. Arrieta entered the start with the worst runs per nine innings of support from defense — a stat that grades a defense's performance behind the pitcher — of any Phillies starter and the fifth-worst mark among major-league pitchers who have started at least 10 games. He has been plagued throughout the season by shaky defense. And Tuesday was no different.
"We have to play better defense behind him. That's just a fact," catcher Andrew Knapp said. "He got a couple ground balls today that would have helped us."
After Hernandez's error, Arrieta struck out Giancarlo Stanton, which would have been the third out even if the Phillies had picked up just an out from the grounder to Hernandez. The error was charged when Hernandez flipped the ball wide of Scott Kingery, who waited at second base to turn two. Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird then slapped consecutive singles to drive in the three unearned runs.
"I mean, Scotty didn't give up nine hits today. I did," Arrieta said. "You know, you can make excuses, but it doesn't change the fact that you still have to go out there and get guys out, minimize damage and move past it. It ended up not necessarily making that much of a difference."
Arrieta yielded six runs (three earned) in five innings. He was hit hard and he wasn't perfect. His third pitch was homered by Aaron Hicks. But his night may have turned out differently had Hernandez made that play to end the third with the Phillies trailing by just a run. This Yankees lineup — which owns baseball's third-highest run total — is the best cast of hitters the Phillies have played this season. And the Phillies, a day after recording just three hits, could not afford to give them any extra outs. Perhaps Arrieta's airing of grievances earlier this month fell on deaf ears.
"I don't see Scott and Cesar as playing anything but loose behind all of our pitchers," manager Gabe Kapler said when asked if he felt the infielders were "playing tight" after Arrieta criticized the team's defense on June 3. "In fact, I think we've seen that consistently with Scott, and Cesar has been solid on defense all season long. One moment does not make a man."
The Phillies totaled just six hits as they were shut out for the first time since June 2. The unearned runs put the Phillies in a four-run hole, which felt like an eight-foot hole against Yankees ace Luis Severino. The righthander scattered six hits, walked none, and struck out nine in seven innings. Kapler said Severino was "dirty as you possibly could be."
The Phillies looked overmatched by Yankees pitching for a second straight night. Rhys Hoskins struck out twice, the lineup's two through five hitters combined to go 0-for-15, and the Phillies had just one extra-base hit. They never threatened. It was a blowout. Their struggles were met by cheers for the second straight night as Yankees fans flocked to Citizens Bank Park. The ballpark had consecutive sellouts for the first time since June 2013.
"We didn't score any runs so pretty much after the third pitch of the game, that was pretty much it," Arrieta said. "You obviously don't know that that's going to be the case until the game plays out. It was unfortunate but I gave up nine hits and had an opportunity, even after the error."
Tuesday night marked Arrieta's final start in June, which should be a welcome sight. He was terrific in May before struggling in June with a 6.66 ERA in his five starts. It was also the month in which the defensive shortcomings behind him became glaring.
Arrieta's first start of June was when he lambasted the team's defensive shifts after a loss in San Francisco. His mid-month start in Milwaukee was sunk after a miscue by Kingery. The feeling he felt on Tuesday night as he walked to the dugout was typical of this month. Perhaps July could bring some relief.