September 21, 2023

Phillies record 1 hit in horrible loss to Pirates


AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

This is not what you want to see hours after buying at the trade deadline.

The Phillies were reminded again Friday in Pittsburgh how bad it can all look when you don’t have starting pitching. Not that the offense or defense helped in a 7-0 blowout loss to a Pirates team that is 25 games under .500 and had been outscored 34-4 this week.

The Phillies had one hit.

Vince Velasquez started and pitched poorly for the fourth time in five starts this month. In three of the last four, he has pitched 2 1/3 innings or fewer. He gave up three runs in the first inning and two in the second at PNC Park.

Velasquez simply isn’t keeping the Phillies in games. He has allowed 42 earned runs in his last 45 innings for an 8.40 ERA.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski talked about the Phillies’ trade deadline activity prior to the game. In discussing the need for an established starting pitcher like Kyle Gibson, Dombrowski referred to Velasquez a few times as the Phils’ fifth starter. 

But can Joe Girardi really send him out there again? For the Phillies, the sad reality is that they don’t have better options. Matt Moore and Chase Anderson, signed over the offseason to one-year deals worth $3 and $4 million, have not pitched well either. Of the three, Velasquez is the only one who’s gone deep into a game at least occasionally, with four starts of at least six innings.

Anderson could still get the next opportunity. He gave up two runs in four innings of relief of Velasquez Friday.

The Phillies are off three consecutive Mondays in August — the 9th, 16th, and 23rd. They will have the ability to skip their fifth starter several times in the month, but they’ll still need someone next week in D.C. And until Zach Eflin returns from his injury of knee tendinitis, Gibson is really just replacing Eflin in the rotation, meaning the Phils still have two gigantic holes.

In a perfect world, Eflin returns in two weeks and the Phillies have four starting pitchers they feel good about in Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Eflin, and Gibson. It’s a lot easier to figure out the five spot than to figure out two or three spots in a rotation every turn through.

The Phillies, a brutal defensive team, played another poor game in the field. Bryce Harper badly misplayed two fly balls to right field, each of them falling behind him. Neither was ruled an error because he didn’t make contact with the ball, but for all intents and purposes, both were. He banged into the wall the second time and hurt his hip. He spent a few minutes in pain and was tended to by a trainer but stayed in the game. Harper, who has dealt with injuries to his back, shoulder, face, wrist, knee, and ankle this season, left the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader with back spasms.

Rhys Hoskins did not play a day after tweaking his groin. He is uncertain to play Saturday. Jean Segura also sat after appearing to hurt his knee stretching to beat out a bang-bang play at first base Thursday.

And yet despite it all, the NL East leading New York Mets lost to the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves were losing late to the Milwaukee Brewers, so the Phillies lost no ground in the division, finishing the night 3.5 games back. The Mets also announced Friday that Jacob deGrom had a setback while rehabbing a forearm injury and has been shut down. He could possibly be done for the season.

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