2022 Phillies: Rotational Obstacles

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Even though the weekend in Atlanta disappointed the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, ’22 isn’t over. But assuming one series determines this summer’s outcome; you may always be one defeat away from giving up on the season if you haven’t already. Basically, you’re thinking with your heart, not head.

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Uphill Battle Ahead:

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The Phillies are actually in an excellent position because the Milwaukee Brewers get to within two games of the Fightins and drop back to three or four shortly thereafter. Of course, fans only notice when they get close, but they haven’t realized the pattern: The Brew Crew is down to three starters. Three for every five contests?

Put Another Way:

“There is no security in life, only opportunity.” – Mark Twain

Except for the National League East victor, two of four franchises in two Wild Card Series will open the NLDS with their third or fourth starter in an away battle against the ace of their opponent. And if the Phils win in two or three contests, it would be Ranger Suarez or Bailey Falter respectively.

Otherwise, the four slot will be Kyle Gibson or Noah Syndergaard. But advancing to the NLDS means facing Max Fried, Jacob deGrom or Julio Urias in game one. Presently, Tony Gonsolin of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been on the IL (injured list) since Aug. 23 with a right forearm strain and is doubtful as a starter.

If they don’t win the NL East, the New York Mets would have Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco or Taijuan Walker in the three or four spot. The Atlanta Braves, though, would have Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright or Jake Odorizzi as a third or fourth hurler. Ergo, second place is different for them because they may use their top arms just to finish first.

Playing the Braves or Mets is competing with a motivated contender, who has too much to lose or gain by losing or winning respectively. Translation: The Bravos remain one game behind the Metropolitans. However, the Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres or Milwaukee can possibly set their rotations for the Wild Card Set.

Me, I don’t judge the red pinstripes harshly because Atlanta is defending their title. It’s as if they are playing to stay alive. So, the Fightins got their first taste of a postseason war, but the four battles in Philly could be the spark they need to bounce back from these defeats.

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Phillies Rotation:

Zack Wheeler will start against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Bank on Sept. 21 in the first of three outings with pitch-count increases to ready him for the first Wild Card contest on Oct. 7. Piggybacking with him, though, on his first two appearances will be Syndergaard, but the goal is for Wheeler to reach 90 or more pitches for the playoffs in his fourth start.

Last September, Wheeler was 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA: five performances for 30 2/3 innings. And the Phils, therefore, have an ace who can dominate any offense in the majors. And if he faces the Mets or Braves, he may not deal with their top moundsmen.

Aaron Nola would go in game two, and some aren’t expecting much because they’re remembering 2021’s stats. Yes, he had a 4.63 ERA overall and a 6.19 September ERA, but their eyes tell them it’s also the same this 162. And giving up four runs to Ronald Acuna Jr. was all some required. Ergo, done and settled!

The right-hander currently has a 3.38 ERA overall and a 3.20 ERA after three pitch-count outings due to an abbreviated spring training. For this September, Nola’s so-called floundering is a 2.87 ERA for three performances of 15 2/3 frames including a two-inning rain-shortened effort. Yes, doubting Thomases, management could decline his 2023 club option.

After two rough appearances, Suarez has bounced back on consecutive performances, including a one-run, six-frame affair in Atlanta. And even though he walked three, he only allowed two hits. For 2022, he has a 3.53 ERA for 26 starts of 140 1/3 innings. So, the red pinstripes will probably tab him for a third wild-card game or the first NLDS battle.

The Phillies would have to play four or five road games for the towels to wave anew!

Earning the four slot with a 3.68 ERA is Falter, who did not miss this campaign’s opportunity and 2023’s five-man staff also. And although he struggled with his command against the Bravos, he only gave up one run over 4 2/3 frames. Ergo, his efforts have kept the Phillies in every contest he starts.

Between now and regular season’s end, things may change. And if they do, veteran Gibson will be available to start, if he doesn’t relief a hurler at the first sign of postseason trouble. Think 2007 when Kyle Kendrick started and Kyle Lohse replaced him: Expect skipper Rob Thomson to relief Suarez, Falter, Gibson and Syndergaard without hesitation.

Syndergaard has given the Fightins a solid improvement over a bullpen game by filling in for Zach Eflin, and Thor will provide 5-6 innings behind Wheeler’s first two outings. Moreover, even four frames would be a bridge to the final three innings. But remember, Falter answered the call when Wheeler went on the IL.

Realistically, Eflin could also be a three-inning blessing behind the third and fourth hurlers. In fact, he may prove to be a better option than Gibson or Syndergaard. Don’t forget he wants to prove he’s healthy and effective for year one of free agency, and a solid showing could get his career back on track.

General manager Lee Thomas, skipper Jim Fregosi, and president and general partner Bill Giles.

To reiterate, Milwaukee is 2.5 games behind the Phils for the third wild card, but they have two more contests against the Mets this week, while the San Francisco Giants are 10.5 games behind. And the Brew Crew will face the New Yorkers with a bullpen game and their sixth starter. Translation: Fear them as a threat to the red pinstripes if you must.

While the offense and relief corps struggled, Suarez, Nola and Falter fired 17 2/3 innings and allowed six runs (all earned) for a 3.06 ERA. Yes, Suarez gave up one run over six frames, Nola allowed four to Acuna over seven, and Falter allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings. But Rhys Hoskins missed two contests, JT Realmuto sat for one, and Nick Castellanos was on the IL.

In 1993, the Braves Ron Gant reportedly chirped they had sent a message to the Phillies after the Bravos had taken two of three in Philly on Sept. 26. And they were clearly the superior team, so the Fightins had no shot in the NLCS. And what happened in game six for the NL pennant? High hopes triumphed!

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NEXT: 7 Division-Altering Games

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