The Philadelphia Phillies took advantage of Friday’s postponement to realign their starting rotation for the four-game series against the visiting Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies opted to keep Jake Arrieta as Saturday’s starter and push Vince Velasquez, Friday’s scheduled starter, to pitch one game of Sunday’s doubleheader. That means Arrieta (0-1, 5.40 ERA) will face Atlanta’s Kyle Wright (0-1, 7.50), a former first-round draft choice the club hopes can nail down a spot in the team’s unsettled rotation, in the series opener.
Otherwise Friday’s rainout was not good news for Philadelphia. The Phillies have already played one doubleheader due to weather or COVID-19 concerns and now have six more.
Arrieta will be making his second start of the season. In his first appearance against the New York Yankees on Aug. 3, he took a loss after allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in five innings.
“It would seem that we are at a disadvantage not being able to play pretty much every day like we’re accustomed to,” Arrieta said. “But if you lean too much on that, it could creep into your mind too heavily and could most certainly affect your performance. That’s not where my head is at. My head is staying in physical shape and getting work in, getting my reps in and preparing the best way possible.”
Arrieta has put up solid numbers against the Braves in his career, going 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine starts. In 2019, he made two starts against Atlanta and went 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA.
Wright will try to solve some of the control problems that have plagued him over his first two starts. In six innings, he has allowed nine hits and seven walks, and opponents are batting .346 against him. In his last start on Aug. 2, Wright did not allow a run despite giving up five hits and four walks.
“It was an improvement over the last time. I’ll say that,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “So hopefully the next time out, he’ll be a little more settled and start feeling like himself. To his credit, he never gave in, which is a great trait to have. He’s a young kid with great stuff who is learning.”
Atlanta’s bullpen has covered up for many of the flaws in the starting rotation, which lost ace Mike Soroka to an Achilles injury this week. The relief corps just got a little deeper on Thursday when free-agent signee Will Smith was activated after spending more than a month on the injured list because of COVID-19.
“I’m definitely ready to get in there, get the season rolling, get the first one under my belt,” Smith said.
The Braves moved reliever Chris Martin to the injured list with esophageal constriction and activated Chad Sobotka.
The Braves will need to find an answer for Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto. Over the last five games, the veteran is hitting .400 (8-for-20) and has homered in back-to-back starts.
Although he is only batting .250 this season, outfielder Bryce Harper is hitting .310 with 32 homers in his career against the Braves. He went deep seven times against Atlanta in 2019.
–Field Level Media