MILWAUKEE — It's important to remember that as a rookie, Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta is still getting the hang of being a starting pitcher in the big leagues.
So while seeing Pivetta give up eight runs in the second inning Friday night in the Phillies' 9-6 loss at Milwaukee was most certainly frustrating (see Instant Replay), you have to give him credit for the way he recovered.
"We've seen that with him before," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's pitched well, lost it for awhile and got it back. Part of pitching up here is to realize what you need to do next. Take a deep breath, step off and regroup. It took a few too many hitters to do that."
Pivetta was coming off his two best outings of the season. He allowed just four earned runs over 14 innings and went seven full in each of those last two efforts.
Armed with a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch, Pivetta appeared to be in control early against the NL Central-leading Brewers, striking out his first four batters before the wheels fell off.
Domingo Santana got it started with a double, Manny Pina followed with a single and Keon Broxton made it a 2-1 game when his base hit drove in Santana. Orlando Arcia put Pivetta in the hole when a 1-2 fastball caught just enough of the plate for the shorstop to drive it to left for his ninth home run of the season and Pivetta followed that by walking Milwaukee's starting pitcher Zach Davies.
Then came a single by slumping second baseman Jonathan Villar and another walk, this time to Eric Thames, to load the bases for Ryan Braun.
Pivetta threw a first pitch slider to Braun that hung just above the zone, right down the middle, and Braun crushed it to dead-center for a grand slam. That triggered a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure, who had a simple message.
“[It was about] making adjustments," Pivetta, who fell to 2-5 with a 5.63 ERA in 12 big-league starts, said of the chat. "What are you going to do now? Are you going to go out there and give up, or are you going to go out there and shut it down? So it got me back on track and I was able to shut it down.
"My concern was after giving up eight runs, going out there and trying to minimize the damage as much as I can so we don't have to wear out the bullpen or use too many position players.”
Pivetta did get back on track and retired nine straight batters before Travis Shaw drew a one-out walk in the fifth and later scored on Pina's sac fly.
"It was like two different pitchers out there today," Mackanin said. "He struck out four in a row, then he just didn't locate any of his pitches. He hung every breaking ball he threw up there in that one span of eight or nine hitters, then he was a different pitcher after that. The home run and the grand slam did him in."
Friday marked just the second time that the rookie had a meltdown-type of start. Unlike his last, when he was tagged for six runs on seven hits and five walks over 2 2/3 innings at Arizona June 26, Pivetta managed to turn things around.
"You could tell the difference between my start in Arizona when stuff sped up on me there," Pivetta said. "It was two pitches that got me in trouble."
Mackanin was impressed by the way Pivetta recovered.
"That was good to see," he said. "He's a rookie and this is his first go-round in the big leagues. He's shown us a lot of promise and I like what he's been doing. Today wasn't his best."
It certainly wasn't his best, but he finished strong and that's reason for optimism.