Series splits can be very hard to evaluate. Should we be content with the fact that the Phillies split a four-game series on the road against the most lethal team in the NL East? Should we expect more out of a team with four all-star caliber starting pitchers and a lineup that made it to the World Series before acquiring Trea Turner?
Truly, it’s tough to say.
The series began with a demoralizing, back-and-forth loss on Thursday. Aaron Nola allowed five runs in six innings of work, but home runs from Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper, along with an RBI double hit by Bryson Stott, kept the Phillies competitive. However, with the game tied in the eighth, Rob Thomson’s decision to pitch left-handed flamethrower Gregory Soto backfired, and the Braves took a three-run lead, which turned out to be too steep of a deficit for the Phils.
The Phillies resurged in games two and three, winning both thanks to strong pitching performances from Taijuan Walker and Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, especially, shined, throwing eight shutout innings and striking out 12 batters. Craig Kimbrel earned his 400th and 401st saves, and Trea Turner delivered an RBI double in both games.
Sunday, though, was a day to forget. Dylan Covey allowed seven runs (five earned) and failed to make it out of the first inning, recording just two outs. Brandon Marsh and Kyle Schwarber both left the yard, but that was not enough to overpower the Braves’ 20-hit performance.
Needless to say, there were not many positives to come out of the Phillies’ game-four disaster. Covey was the third Phillies’ pitcher to fail to escape the first inning this month, and his ERA jumped from 3.00 to 7.45. It was his first start as a Phillie, so one might argue he deserves to be cut some slack, but it is also hard for Phillies’ management to justify giving him the ball every fifth day.
So with Andrew Painter’s injury and Bailey Falter’s regression, what options do the Phillies have, and how bad is the depth within their organization?
Unfortunately, there answer won’t appeal to most Phillies fans.
Painter, of course, is progressing but is nowhere near a return to the mound. Even when he is ready, it is hard to see a team in playoff contention throwing him directly onto a major-league mound before an extended build up in the minor leagues, especially given his age.
In the minors, Michael Plassmeyer and Noah Skirrow have struggled as of late, and a few other notable arms, like Nick Nelson, are still on the injured list. In fact, no Iron Pigs starting pitcher has an ERA under 4.50 through 50 international league regular season games.
With it being unlikely that the Phillies can improve from within the organization, is it possible that they shop elsewhere?
Veterans Anibal Sanchez, Mike Minor, Garrett Richards, and Chris Archer are free agents. While they have a long injury history and have struggled toward the back ends of their careers, it may be worth taking a shot.
Now, let’s say Dave Dombrowski wants to get really fancy: he could make a trade well before the deadline, and there’s no doubt this would catch the baseball world by surprise. Athletics’ starter Paul Blackburn is making his first start since coming off the IL this upcoming week, and Dylan Cease—arguably the most appealing starting pitcher trade candidate—could benefit from a change of scenery sooner than later, considering his rough start to 2023.
Are these ideas long shots? Absolutely.
But if the Phillies were to pull a stunt similar to the latter, it would not even be close to the biggest surprise Dave Dombrowski pulled out of his sleeve.
So, I guess, after 618 words, I am really telling you, that after the Phillies’ 28 losses amid inconsistent play, we all should still save an ounce of hope that Red October may be destined return.