By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Phillies (2-4) play host to the New York Yankees (9-2) for the final game of a four game set on Thursday night at 6:05 p.m. The Yankees have taken two of three from the Phils, as the two squads split Wednesday’s doubleheader.
While splitting a doubleheader against one of the best teams in baseball may seem like good news on the surface, the Phils squandered a sizable opportunity to sweep the twin bill. I propose that every member of the Phillies bullpen, lineup, and Joe Girardi give Aaron Nola their own handwritten apology for last night’s game.
While both Nola and Zack Wheeler pitched phenomenally in their starts yesterday, I think we’ve all underestimated just how horrid this bullpen is. The Phils ‘pen managed to turn an 11-3 blowout into a save situation for Hector Neris, deeming him “unusable” by Joe Girardi for game two even though he threw just one pitch. In game two, Nola pitched six spectacular innings and left the game with the score tied at one. Then Tommy Hunter came in and didn’t record a single out and gave up two runs.
Don’t worry though, Phillies fans, I have some great news. It’s a home Thursday game, so the Phils will be wearing their stupendous powder blues tonight. So while the bullpen will still let up an astronomical amount of runs tonight, at least they’ll be doing it in style.
They Are Who We Thought They Were
For the sake of driving home a point, here are a thread of tweets that show how unbelievably bad the Phillies bullpen has been.
So, on Wednesday:— Jonny Heller (@JonnyHeller) August 6, 2020
Phillies starters - 12 IP, 9 H, 3 ER
Phillies relievers - 2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER
Phillies bullpen— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) August 6, 2020
• 9.18 ERA
• .338 opponents' batting average
• No real solutions in sight
The Phillies bullpen so far this season:— Jonny Heller (@JonnyHeller) August 6, 2020
16.2 IP, 17 ER, 25 H, 7 BB,
That's a 9.44 ERA and a 1.975 WHIP. The 'pen has played a role in every loss this year.
Remember how bad we thought this bullpen might be? It’s worse than that.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) August 6, 2020
The worst part about this is what Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out: there is no real solution in sight. For a team that really only has two legitimate, proven starters, this smells like a disaster waiting to happen that quite frankly, everyone saw coming. Well, except for the people in charge of putting the team together, apparently.
Phillies Lineup vs. Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 1.59 ERA)
1. Andrew McCutchen LF
2. Rhys Hoskins 1B
3. Bryce Harper RF
4. J.T. Realmuto C
5. Phil Gosselin DH
6. Didi Gregorius SS
7. Scott Kingery 2B
8. Neil Walker 3B
9. Roman Quinn CF
Philadelphia will face left hander Jordan Montgomery, who has made just one start so far this season. He gave up only one run to the struggling Red Sox offense over 5.2 innings pitched last Friday night. The 27-year-old Montgomery has 38 career starts and sports a 3.84 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He appeared in just two games last season for New York due to recovery from Tommy John surgery.
The Phillies offense was the best it has looked all season in the first game of yesterday’s double header. The stars shined the brightest, with Harper and Realmuto both hitting home runs and reaching base a combined six times. The offense followed up that breakout performance with a one run, three hit dud. A true Jekyll and Hyde, if you will.
That leads to the question everyone wants an answer for: which offense shows up tonight? Or, better yet, which Phillies offense is the real offense, Jekyll or Hyde? It may be too early to tell, but they have sure leaned more toward their Hyde ego, as they’ve scored three runs or less in three of their six games (all losses). This is extremely frustrating, given how tantalizing their potential is and how much better the offense would be if they could just hit with runners on base.
With a lefty on the mound for New York, the Phils lineup once again skews more right handed. With the left-handed Montgomery on the mound, Philadelphia folk hero Phil Gosselin and his .625 batting average will get the start at DH and bat fifth. If you had told me I'd type that sentence a month ago, I would have laughed in your face.
Furthermore, the lefty on the mound could conceivably lead to some of the righty bats getting going. Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, and Scott Kingery have been downright dreadful to open the season. These guys need to get going or this offense is not going to be very good. Much like the assembly of the bullpen, the Phillies really don’t have a lot of good options if these guys don’t turn it around.
Yankees Lineup vs. Zach Eflin (0-0, -.-- ERA)
1. Mike Tauchman RF
2. Luke Voit 1B/p>
3. Aaron Hicks CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton DH
5. Gleyber Torres SS
6. Brett Gardner LF
7. Gio Urshela 3B
8. Gary Sanchez C
9. Tyler Wade 2B
Zach Eflin will look to continue the success that Phillies starters have had in this series. Arrieta, Wheeler, and Nola have combined to surrender just seven runs during the first three games against a potent Yankee offense. As I’ve well documented, the issue in this series has been the Phillies bullpen.
Eflin had an extreme up-and-down season last year, as he started his 2019 season fairly strong, looked awful in the summer months, and finished the season well. The big thing for him in this shortened season will be consistency. The Phillies need him to keep the ball in the park, something he struggled with last season.
Above all else, the organization and the fans just want someone else to trust in this pitching rotation that isn’t named Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler. Consistency leads to trust, because you know what you're going to get. That can't be said about anyone on this pitching staff other than Nola and Wheeler.
As for the Yankees offense, Aaron Judge and D.J. LeMahieu have continued to smash the baseball. They've combined to go 9-22 in the first three games of this series, including two home runs. It's unclear why Aaron Boone took them out of the lineup tonight, likely just a day off, but the Phillies should be happy that they've dodged two pretty significant bullets. I wouldn't be at all surprised if both of them found themselves in a late-game situation.
As for guys that are actually in the lineup, guys like Luke Voit and Brett Gardner are guys to watch as they've each already left their mark on the series so far. Gardner homered in games one and two, while Voit was responsible for the only Yankee run off of Nola in game three. Another guy to watch is Mike Tauchman, as he had the go-ahead RBI double last night.
I think this game will remain fairly close through the early innings. Eflin and Montgomery match each other in mediocrity, as they each give up four runs through five innings. That’s when the game will be turned over to the bullpens.
As has been the case throughout the series, the Phillies bullpen throws batting practice and the Yankees take advantage of that, while the Phillies look utterly confused at the plate against the Yankees dominant bullpen. LeMahieu comes off the bench and gets a clutch RBI knock, and the avalanche will begin. Meanwhile, the Phils score no more runs once Montgomery leaves the game.
The Phillies lose 8-4, but look sweet doing it.