By DAN GELSTON
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jake Arrieta pitched like the healthy ace the Phillies needed for three years. He could help Philadelphia make some noise in the National League playoff push — to the delight of a cluster of fans with horns, drums and chants from outside the park that produced a needed summer soundtrack.
Arrieta tossed six shutout innings for his first win in more than a year and Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto each homered to lead the Phillies past the Atlanta Braves 5-0 Saturday night.
Arrieta (1-1) tossed three-hit ball and struck out six for his first win since June 30, 2019. He made seven more starts before he was shut down with season-ending surgery on a bone spur in his pitching elbow.
“Now I have the ability to throw my breaking balls with more effect,” Arrieta said. “Everything is coming out of my hand a little more crisp.”
Arrieta, who won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs, was sharp in shutting down the Braves and looked like the ace the Phillies expected when he joined them in 2018.
“I have more weapons at my disposal that I didn’t necessarily have the last year or two,” Arrieta said. “I’m not worried about the elbow flaring up in the third or fourth inning.”
He had help all around — right fielder Bryce Harper made an outstretched, diving catch in the fifth that earned a fist pump in appreciation from Arrieta.
Realmuto continued his hot streak, homering for the third straight game, with a 427-foot solo shot in the fourth off Braves starter Kyle Wright (0-2). Wright put the next runners on base and Bruce hit a three-run homer to make it 4-0.
Realmuto’s contract expires at the end of the season and, while he hasn’t said much publicly during the season about his desire for a new deal, he might be making more noise than anyone in baseball at the plate. His homer set off the ringing of the Liberty Bell above the outfield bleachers, blasts from air horns and chants of “Sign J.T.!” from a dozen or so fans pressed against a fence outside the stadium.
“That’s J.T., man. He’s out there with a vengeance,” Harper said.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone complained about the air horn during a series this week to no avail — the dozen or so fans who call themselves the Phandemic Krew are outside Citizens Bank Park, giving the umpires no recourse to make the noise stop.
The four-run fourth was enough to give Arrieta the win in his first start without allowing a run since Aug. 6, 2018.
“I thought he threw the ball well tonight. I thought he didn’t get it over the middle of the plate too often, and when he did, he’s got so much movement on his ball, it’s kind of tough to square him at times,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said.
Jose Alvarez, Tommy Hunter and Deolis Guerra combined on three scoreless innings to help the Phillies complete their first shutout at home since April 26, 2019. Didi Gregorius added an RBI single in the eighth.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said prized prospect Spencer Howard is set to make his big league debut on Sunday, a potential big shot in the arm for the Phillies down the stretch. The 24-year-old Howard, a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, is widely considered the Phillies’ top pitching prospect since Aaron Nola or even Cole Hamels.
Howard impressed Harper, who said on a Twitch steam in July, “If Spencer Howard isn’t starting in our rotation by Game 6 in New York against the New York Yankees, there’s a problem. That’s all I’ll say.”
Howard’s bid to crack the rotation was derailed by service issues. The Phillies kept him on their taxi squad in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for enough days to delay his potential free-agency until after the 2026 season.
“I’m excited for him,” Harper said. “This is where it starts. I’m excited to get him up here. Phillies fans of this organization should be very excited at what Spence does.”
The Phillies were scheduled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1980 World Series champions. The Phillies made cardboard cutouts of the players — including Pete Rose — and stuck them in the right field seats.
Girardi said RHP Vince Velasquez (0-0, 12.00 ERA) will likely start the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Atlanta RHP Huascar Ynoa makes his first start of the season in the first game. The Braves send LHP Max Fried (2-0, 2.04) to the mound in the second.