Jonathan Pettibone would have liked the chance to work out of the seventh inning on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, but he knows he’s not quite to the stage of his career where he can have a debate with manager Charlie Manuel.
Nevertheless, with the poise and the polish that Pettibone pitched with during the 4-1 victory over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay), he might get that chance to work longer in games pretty soon.
“What do I need to say? We won all three games and he pitched real good,” Manuel said about the rookie righty. “What more can I say? He’s done real good.”
Pettibone improved his record to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 3.24 by allowing just one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. In just his third big-league start, Pettibone had his second game without allowing a walk and became the first Phillies’ starter to begin his career with a 2-0 record since Antonio Bastardo did it in 2009.
Not allowing walks is a big key to success for a young pitcher like Pettibone, but the most important part of the 22-year-old’s repertoire might be his poise. In the fourth, fifth and sixth innings on Friday night, Pettibone allowed the leadoff hitter to get a hit. But only once were the Marlins able to score and that was on Donovan Solano’s solo homer in the fourth.
Pettibone actually seemed to pitch better when there were runners on base. In fact, with runners on base against Pettibone, the Marlins went 0 for 8. In the plate appearances after hits against the rookie, the Marlins went 0 for 11.
That’s some poise.
“That’s when you have to make your biggest pitches, when you’re in the stretch,” Pettibone said. “You get the mentality to beat down and get yourself out of it.”
That’s also why Manuel decided to go to the bullpen after Pettibone gave up a one-out single in the seventh inning. After throwing 94 pitches and getting 11 ground-ball outs, Manuel wanted Pettibone to feel good about the work he’d done.
Either way, Manuel walked away from the outing impressed with the kid.
“The thing I like about him is he can take his fastball and hit both of the sides of the plate with it,” Manuel said. “To me, that’s very important. I thought tonight he made some mistakes with breaking balls up, but he got away with it because he’d come back and he was always able to put his fastball on a good place.”
Pettibone also had an early lead, which also took off some pressure.
The Phillies got off to a three-run lead thanks to leadoff homers from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, as well as a two-out single from Ben Revere. In the fourth inning after the Marlins scored a run, Dom Brown slugged the Phillies’ third leadoff homer in as many innings.
Utley leads the team with six homers, but Brown and Howard are nipping at his heels with five apiece. For Howard, four of those blasts have come in the last nine game (and 35 plate appearances) after hitting just one homer in his first 19 games of the season.
Maybe Howard has found his hitting stroke?
“He’s more patient,” Manuel said about Howard. “He’s starting to get good balls to hit and he’s staying on the ball better. And he’s putting the fat part of the bat on the ball.”
In other words, Howard is being both patient and aggressive -- two divergent actions that make great hitters.
“It’s really where the patience comes in with getting a good pitch to hit and the aggressive comes in being aggressive on that good pitch,” Howard explained. “They go hand-and-hand, but they do kind of contradict each other. It’s being patient enough to get a good pitch to hit and then being aggressive enough in going after it.”
Perhaps that’s how Pettibone worked, too. When runners reached base he was poised enough to trust his stuff and make the right pitch. After all, Pettibone faced just four three-ball counts against the Marlins and got three outs in those situations.
“I kind of stuck to the same game plan, kind of built off each start,” Pettibone explained. “I’ve stayed aggressive in the count early and I’m letting the hitters put the ball in play and have my defense do the rest behind me.”
The Phillies and Marlins play the third game of the four-game series on Saturday night when lefty Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.78) takes on the Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez (0-2, 4.50). Hamels faced the Marlins in Miami on April 13 when he took the no-decision in a 2-1 loss despite allowing just three hits over six innings.