November 30, 2022

Phillies swept out of Toronto in midst of offensive drought

Christopher Katsarov/ Canadian Press

The Phillies cruised through June and had a good enough start to July that put them in the third Wild Card position in the National League. Until Wednesday, the Phillies hadn’t even lost a series in July.

But this one was ugly.

Bryson Stott shined offensively and defensively, and the bullpen was efficiently limiting the damage while eating innings for a depleted, shorthanded team. Unfortunately, these performances just blended into the background of another series where the Phillies failed to take advantage of a struggling team.

The Phillies came into Toronto without J.T. Realmuto, Alec Bohm, Kyle Gibson, and Aaron Nola because of Canada’s vaccine mandate. Nick Duron, Rafael Marchan, Will Toffey, and Bubby Rossman were recalled from the minor leagues because of their absence. More on the roster moves can be found in the series preview.

These COVID-related issues were definitely an inconvenience, but it does not excuse striking out 23 times in two games. The Phillies have now scored three runs or less in six consecutive games, and they tallied just two hits Wednesday evening.

Game summaries

With Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, and Bailey Falter being unvaccinated, the Phillies were forced to do another bullpen game to get through the first game. Once again, the bullpen did an excellent job staying efficient and keeping the Phillies within striking distance.

Andrew Bellatti, the opener on Tuesday, allowed two runs in the first inning, allowing the Jays to take the early lead. Teoscar Hernandez, who ultimately drove in six runs throughout the series, scored George Springer and Bo Bichette on a line-drive double to centerfield.

Odubel Herrera hit an RBI infield single in the second, and Bryson Stott pulled a two-strike sinker for a game-tying home run.

Two straight doubles from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Matt Chapman gave the Jays a one-run lead, but Nick Castellanos hit an RBI single to answer back the following inning.

With the game tied in the sixth inning, Gurriel Jr. struck again—he hit a ground-rule double off Jeurys Familia, giving the Jays their lead back.

Jose Berrios and the Blue Jays’ bullpen shut the Phillies down late in the game, leading the Jays to the win in game one. The Phillies had just two hits in the sixth inning and on and struck out 13 times throughout the game.

It is a rare day when Zack Wheeler struggles to punch tickets on a major-league mound. His command is almost always pristine, he has an overpowering fastball, and he fools opposing hitters with his slider and curveball.

In game two, this was not the case—Wheeler threw just 4.2 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits. Raimel Tapia’s groundout in the bottom of the third was the beginning of the Jays’ offensive affair, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez hit home runs. Bo Bichette added on with an RBI single, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a sac fly to increase the Blue Jays’ lead to six.

Nick Duron pitched a scoreless inning in his major-league debut, but Bubby Rossman—also making his debut—was taken yard by Teoscar Hernandez in the home half of the eighth.

Bryson Stott hit another home run in game two, and this one was off Blue Jays’ starter Ross Stripling. Stripling threw seven scoreless frames and struck out six Phillies, lowering his ERA to 3.03.

The Phillies tallied just two total hits, and the 8-2 loss in game two swept them right back into the United States.

I’d bet that Rob Thomson’s Phillies wish all of their passports were expired because this was an unproductive trip for the Phillies.

No production from Castellanos

Sam Fuld and Dave Dombrowski are paying Nick Castellanos $20 million to hit .251. Nick Castellanos is getting paid $20 million to have a .672 OPS.

No matter how you spin it, you cannot find a way to justify Nick Castellanos’ poor performance. This is the worst season of his career, excluding the 18 at-bats he had with Detroit in 2013. His .672 OPS is nowhere close to the .938 OPS that he had in 2021.

Castellanos has seen more breaking balls low and outside of the zone, and he has continued to chase these pitches. The season is more than halfway over, and the only adjustment he has implemented is the “swing every time and hope I hit it” approach.

News flash—this does not work.

Castellanos has struck out just 33 fewer times so far in 2022 than he did in all of 2021. He had grounded into twelve double plays coming into game two, which tied him for third-most in the National League.

At this point in the season, it is hard to see him making any sort of adjustment. It almost feels that Rob Thomson should be obligated to move him down in the lineup in hopes that it sparks Castellanos to make a more progressive adjustment. There aren’t many guys who could fill Castellanos’ spot in the order, but Alec Bohm could potentially be in the three-hole when he returns from his injury.

If Thomson decides against that, how would Castellanos feel being benched in the middle of a game? Is there a point where we would rather see Mickey Moniak or Yairo Munoz get an at-bat over a struggling, demotivated Castellanos?

It’s just a thought…

The injuries are hurting more by the day

The Phillies are missing one-third of their starting nine and two-fifths of their rotation. Connor Brogdon, an important piece to the Phillies’ bullpen, is also on the shelf.

The Phillies got through a few series without these absences having too much of a negative impact, but their shorthandedness is finally starting to show. Yairo Munoz went from being a triple-A player to platooning in the big leagues in less than three months. Odubel Herrera is seeing increased playing time due to Matt Vierling getting starts at third base. Bryson Stott is a rookie hitting just .187, and he is in the Phillies lineup everyday. Didi Gregorius has never underperformed as much as he has since his knee injury about a month ago.

On the pitching side of things, Bailey Falter has seen more starts since Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin suffered injuries, and he has done very little to impress. None of his minor-league success has translated to the big-league mound, and an injured Zach Eflin or an injured Ranger Suarez could give the Phillies higher-quality innings.

Bryson Stott has improved significantly in the last month and has not yet made an error at second base. But outside of him, the other three that I mentioned have been atrocious. Odubel Herrera has been struggling offensively and defensively, Didi Gregorius has a cringeworthy OPS of .482 over his last 15 games, and Yairo Munoz is a major-league bench-bat at best.

Needless to say, Bryce Harper’s MVP-caliber play and Jean Segura’s clutch situational hitting have been missed as of late. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but the spotlights usually shone on these two players are more noticeable when vacated than occupied. And it has shown in this four-game losing streak that the Phillies are in the midst of.

The Phillies will have a much-needed day off on Thursday, but they will be back at it on Friday in Miami. This three-game set will be the last set the Phillies play before the highly-anticipated All-Star break.

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