Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

By Matt Hammond

Two starts in, all was well for Tyler Cloyd. He’d punched back-to-back quality starts in his debut appearances with the Phillies in 2012, for a more-than-reputable 1-1 mark and 2.77 ERA. He’d struck out 14 and walked only 2. By all appearances, Cloyd was, at the very least, serviceable.

Then came start No. 3, what 2013 rookie Jonathan Pettibone will face tonight.

Cloyd was unloaded on by the 98-loss Colorado Rockies for four runs in four innings, taking all his damage in the third. He surrendered four straight hits with two outs. He lasted only 76 pitches.

For the rest of the way, Cloyd’s first-two-start luster was gone. He lasted only three innings his next time out, against the 107-loss Houston Astros, serving as many runs as he tossed frames in that one, too. After seeming bounce-back start against the Mets, Cloyd again buckled, for six runs in five innings to the Washington Nationals. Just like that, Cloyd’s ERA flirted with 5.00.

The same befell then-rookie starter Antonio Bastardo in 2009. Two starts in, he had a 2.45 ERA and struck out nine to two walks. His next time out, the Boston Red Sox smashed him for five runs (four earned) in one inning. After essentially the same unfolded in Tampa two starts later – Bastardo was mauled for six runs in 3 2/3 innings – he was optioned to Triple-A to begin polishing his relief game.

The sample is hardly enough for conclusions. But the fact is, of the four starters to debut for the Phillies since 2007 before Pettibone, two stumbled in their third start after being viable through their first two. The others, Vance Worley and J.A. Happ, were already relegated to the ‘pen by then.

Did they hit a wall? Get figured out? Tough to say.

But Pettibone has hardly fared like they did. His 4.35 ERA ranks 11th of 17 rookie starters this year. His opp BA (.317) is second-worst. Though his BABIP, .379, is also highest, it’s partly because he can’t miss a bat; opponents have the best contact rate on Pettibone (88.9%) than they do any other rookie starter. He’s gotten all but a hardly sustainable 4.5% of his strikes on swings, the lowest among rooks. His first-pitch strike percentage? Worst of the lot. He’s also served the third-most HR/9.

Pettibone’s yet to last more than 5 1/3, despite getting 13 more pitches of leash in start No. 2. The Phillies have won both his starts. Pettibone has also averaged 6.35 runs of support in them. 

Pettibone does get Miami tonight, which has plated three or more runs in only 12 of 29 games so far. But his next scheduled starts are vs. the World Champion Giants and 20 runs in two games Indians.

This is less about circumstantial anecdotes than the fact that, while Pettibone’s been OK, he’s yet to be great. And even early “goodness” can fade fast. So if Pettibone begins to slack tonight, or in 5 or 10 days, and if the alternatives’ arms have been stretched, the organization might be best served turning to Adam Morgan or Ethan Martin – or one and then the other – until John Lannan’s return.

Because as well and nice as it’s been, Pettibone in the rotation could get ugly fast.

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

It was the Ivan Provorov show at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon when the Flyers took down the NHL-leading Blackhawks, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
 
The orange and black are now on a season-best four-game winning spree and have climbed past the Capitals for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
 
Let’s delve into the game with 10 observations.
 
1. Remember this? When Provorov tripped over his own two skates in Chicago? It was a bit of an embarrassing moment for the 19-year-old. It resulted in an easy Blackhawks goal and, in many ways, served as Provorov’s rookie initiation as he finished a minus-5. Well, you can forget all that. The Flyers’ young, prized blueliner, who entered with one goal in 25 games, showed Chicago his true colors Saturday by ripping off two markers in 31 seconds of the second period. Good for him.
 
2. Brayden Schenn was extra demonstrative after extending the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period. Can you blame him? The 25-year-old had just one goal in his last 17 games. Schenn has been up and down the lineup, playing on all four lines and at both wing and center. He looked good here with Travis Konecny, who delivered a surgical pass to set up Schenn.
 
3. Patrick Kane had a secondary assist but that was all as the Flyers kept him mostly quiet. Kane, a four-time All-Star and last season’s Hart Memorial Trophy winner for NHL MVP, had 24 points coming in, good for seventh in the league.
 
4. Steve Mason was good in net. He’s now won three straight, a span in which he’s stopped 90 of 95 shots.
 
5. Aside from a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by Nick Cousins in the third period, the Flyers played with great discipline. Chicago wasn’t awarded any power plays until there was 6:31 left in the game. The Flyers forced the Blackhawks to beat them at full strength and they couldn’t.
 
6. Cousins, Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl all tallied an assist apiece. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 30-27, and had just seven giveaways.
 
7. The Blackhawks’ opening goal was a nice one. Artem Anisimov adeptly eluded a sliding Provorov in front of the crease and fed Artemi Panarin for a one-timer. Mason had no chance. Panarin, as you may know, beat out Shayne Gostisbehere for last season’s Calder Memorial Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie. The 25-year-old has nine goals and 22 points this season.
 
8. Unexpectedly, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford underwent an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital Saturday, putting Chicago in bind. Second-string netminder Scott Darling received the start, but the Blackhawks needed an emergency backup. Enter the pride of Temple, Eric Semborski, a 23-year-old from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, who played club hockey for the Owls. Chicago inked him to an amateur tryout, essentially for one day. He was seen in warmups wearing a Temple mask, which sported “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff.”
 
 9. Chicago came in 13-3-2 since Oct. 28. However, the Blackhawks overall are 6-6-1 on the road compared to 10-1-2 at home. The Flyers did catch a break as Chicago was without Crawford and three-time All-Star Jonathan Toews (back). Still, a really good win for the Flyers against a team that was atop the NHL.
 
10. Wondering if there were any “woo” chants in the first home game since Jakub Voracek blasted fans for it? Well, only a select few had the audacity to try it but the woos never gained steam. Fans are past it.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers now have a legitimate win streak going.
 
They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Wells Fargo Center for their fourth straight victory (see 10 observations).
 
It’s the longest win streak of the season for Dave Hakstol’s club.
 
Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov scored twice in the second period just 31 seconds apart to erase a 1-0 deficit and put the Flyers ahead. The Flyers scored three goals on their first four shots that period.
 
Chicago has now lost 13 consecutive regular-season games in Philadelphia. The Hawks last won here in 1996-97, when the building opened as CoreStates Center.

Steve Mason (26 Saves) made his third straight start in goal for the Flyers, while Scott Darling was a late sub in goal for Chicago given Corey Crawford’s emergency appendectomy surgery. 
 
Notable goals
Artemi Panarin’s one-timer from the left circle in the first period saw all five Flyers on the opposite side of the ice. 
 
Twice is nice
Provorov’s first goal was high shot above the left circle. His second goal came from the high slot low toward the left post on Darling.
 
What-a-pass
Travis Konecny threaded a puck between two Blackhawks to Brayden Schenn’s stick to set up the Flyers' third goal in the second period.
 
Inconclusive
In an effort to help Mason, Provorov had his glove hand over the puck in the Flyers' net and cleared it out. Replays were inconclusive. All you could see is Provorov moving his glove hand and the puck squirting out … but from where? It should have been a goal, but if the video doesn’t show the puck in the net, even if logic suggests otherwise, it’s not a goal. 
 
Goalie report
Mason didn’t face the kind of shot challenges that Darling did, but he did a very good job of slowing things down and forcing faceoffs by covering up shots in the paint rather than attempt to keep pucks alive.
 
Power play
The Flyers had their pickings on their first opportunity and the Hawks’ lowly 30th-ranked PK units did nothing but rely on Darling to make saves.
 
Penalty kill
Chicago didn’t have a full power play. It got an abbreviated one in the third period, when the Flyers were called for too many men on the ice during a power play, which is rather incongruous when you think about it.
 
Father and sons
The Flyers' annual event began Saturday, as players’ fathers watched the game here at the Wells Fargo Center. The fathers will travel with the team to Nashville for Sunday’s game as well.
 
Scratches
Defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy) and Radko Gudas (ill); forwards Boyd Gordon (back spasms), Sean Couturier (left knee) and Scott Laughton (healthy); goalie Michal Neuvirth (left knee).
 
Up next
This is a back-to-back situation for the Flyers. They leave after the game for Nashville, where they will meet the Predators on Sunday at a rare playing time of 6 p.m.