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Examining each Phillies starter’s most frustrating game

It’s not going to surprise you how many of these are recent.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Phillies locker room is quiet as players shuffle about, performing menial pre-game tasks. Suddenly, the doors burst open and I run in, arms flailing, eyes brick red, scraggly beard - I haven’t slept in weeks. Security is not far behind me.

ME: You have to listen to me! These young pitchers need run support or they’ll die! I’ve seen it!

SECURITY GUARD: [Catching up to me] Sorry, this man said he was Tyler Goeddel and I had ltierally no way to confirm or deny it. [Easily tasers me for longer than necessary] He's... he's not Tyler Goeddel, right.


GUARD: [To Goeddel] Who the hell are you?

ME: [Drooling, barely able to speak] Just... look at the facts... no... run support...

Jerad Eickhoff, July 26 vs. Marlins

Oh lord, this game just happened. Eickhoff threw seven innings, something he’s only done five times in 20 starts this year, and he finished having thrown 90 pitches. These guys are just trying not to get slide tackled by Larry Bowa; imagine trying to put on a pitching clinic in that situation. All warming up before a game but feeling a tiny, furious man’s nose breaths on your shoulder and not being sure if you’re the only one who can see him.

That makes a seven-inning gem like this feel all the more wasted, since the Phillies couldn’t get it together in time to save Eickhoff from a sleepless night. The only five Phillies to reach base were:

  • Cesar Hernandez: Probably ran all the way to the right field wall on an infield single for some reason.
  • Freddy Galvis: Won "Cesar Hernandez Award" for actually being picked off/caught stealing.
  • Cameron Rupp: Reached on a weak grounder to third that was followed by two straight strikeouts.
  • Odubel Herrera: Had probably just fallen asleep on a base and when he woke up, everyone assumed he had singled.
  • Jerad Eickhoff: Off the pitcher - it was Tom Koehler, by the way; he had a 4.50 ERA in the first half - who was flummoxing the hitters’ portion of the Phillies lineup, the sole member of the pitchers’ portion was able to work a walk.

So, yeah, guys. Not great. And Eickhoff’s left to pick up the pieces. This was less than a week after Pete Mackanin had hosted his second players only Closed Door Meeting. The mojo gained from his no doubt stern glares and aggressive glasses-adjusting had a pretty unsustainable shelf life. To be fair, Andrew Bailey and Severino Gonzalez did their share of contributing to the loss by allowing a combined four additional runs over the last two innings, and they’re not even allowed to look at the bats.

Zach Eflin, June 24 vs. Giants

Nothing inspires confidence in a rookie like getting pounded into the infield dust your first time out. Eflin’s debut has actually been stricken from the record by Phillies archivists, whose notes indicate that the 22-year-old was supposed to debut that day, but the game was canceled due to some plausible reason that they will think of later.

Since that mysterious day, the outcome of which we shall never truly know, Eflin has been steadily improving. He’s now the only rookie in baseball to have thrown two nine-inning starts, one of which was a complete game shut-out. This match-up with the Giants occurred while he was on the upswing, attempting to mash that ERA down from the still bulbous 6.28 at which it sat. And he did his job. Which is more than can be said for... other people...

Eflin let in only one unearned run, thanks in part to Howard, but still wound up throwing only 94 pitches, despite over a third of them coming in the first inning.

So what the hell? The Phillies had ten hits on this night - more than the team that won. Maikel Franco and Peter Bourjos each had a triple, which were two of the Phillies’ six extra base hits on the night. They had more XBH than they did singles. They even had a pair of two-out RBI. So was this really an offensive letdown? They did score four runs. You could make the argument that they only went 3-for-12 with RISP, but the Giants went 3-for-13. Eflin held court, the Phillies bats were touching baseballs - damn it, who is solely responsible for this loss?!

Well, Severino Gonzalez, who replaced Eflin in the seventh, gave up a single, and then left, is certainly not blameless. He was charged with an earned run when that guy came around to score a few minutes later, after Elvis Araujo had entered the game and every hitter had gotten the green light.

Starting to... see a pattern here.

Aaron Nola, July 18, vs. Marlins

Again, we’re basically still shaking this one off. Nola had to dance with Jose Fernandez, and was able to keep up with him except for one minor statistic that you may be able notice with them listed right here.

  • Nola: 5 SO, 1 BB, 0 ER, 2 H in 6 IP
  • Fernandez: 14 SO, who cares what else, this man is insane, in 6.1 IP

Did you catch it?

Yes, the Phillies took turns standing at the plate and then walking back to the dugout shaking their heads for most of this game. Everyone who got an AB had at least one strikeout, except for Andres Blanco. Some of them had a strikeout in most of their AB: Maikel Franco, Peter Bourjos, and Cody Asche all K’d three times.

Odubel Herrera was able to kick a Fernandez offering into the gap for a double and came around to score, and Tommy Joseph launched a solo shot to make it 2-0 (he also struck out twice). Of course, this meant the Phillies’ offensive arsenal was pretty much exhausted. All the Marlins would have to do is score three runs, which they eventually did - two in the bottom of the ninth off Jeanmar Gomez and the winning one in the bottom of the eleventh off Brett Oberholtzer.

So you probably want to blame the bullpen here, and that’s fine. But that was only Gomez’s third blown save, and by now we don’t expect much more than runs allowed from Oberholtzer, the poor guy. Maybe scoring more than two runs would have helped - they did knock Fernandez out of the game in the middle of the sixth, after all, following Joseph’s home run and a Freddy Galvis walk. Then Cesar Hernandez came up, looked at two pitches, and ended the inning with a double play. Which is fine, because he probably would just have tried to steal second on a walk with another guy already on second, or something.

Vince Velasquez, July 19, vs. Marlins

The next day, Velasquez got the ball with the intention of pitching the Phillies out of the hole in which a demoralizing, extra-innings loss can put a team. Again, like Nola, he was effective in pitch selection and velocity, using a 95-96 m.p.h. heater, mischievous slider, and Freddy Galvis’ solid defense at short to plow through seven innings of Fish. His command seemed to float away at times, leading to four walks on the day, but VV was in the zone enough to work his way around base runners, leaving the game having allowed only one earned run and three hits.

It was David Hernandez who allowed the hit and walk that resulted in the Marlins taking a 2-1 lead in the tenth, but it was the Phillies offense that went 5-for-36 on the day, with 11 strikeouts and four walks. They had runners in scoring position on four occasions and were so excited to bring the runs in that batters were literally paralyzed with joy.

Just check out this clutch Peter Bourjos AB with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

Cream cheese, that’s the good stuff.

"Too many bad at-bats," Pete Mackanin explained later, probably not needing to go through several hours of game footage to conclude so. Velasquez, screaming in the shower, likely agreed.

Adam Morgan, May 21, vs. Braves

Yes, even Adam Morgan gets a turn. So futile is this offense that even Morgan could make the claim that he did all he could on the 21st day of May this season.

Morgan cruised through five innings - cruised - needing only 65 pitches to mow down the National League’s worst team by far. But you know what an Adam Morgan start typically looks like, and the guy only allowed two earned runs and four hits in six innings of work. He even made Chase d’Arnaud look like a real goofus out there, striking him out in the first AB of the game.

"Wow!" you say, "What other cool strikeouts did Morgan have that day?" And the answer is none. That was the only one. Also d’Arnaud would go on to log three hits on the day. So.

But when Morgan departed, the score was 2-0 Atlanta, a lead that the Braves have often seemed willing, or even desperate, to surrender throughout the season. Yet the Phillies lineup could not lock onto Williams Perez (who has a 4.62 ERA right now), and he took advantage of their silliness by allowing only one walk and two hits with no runs in 6.1 innings. I’m not going to check, but it was probably his best start of the year.

Two hits. Two! You’ll never guess who managed to come through, either; it was Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Goeddel and Lehigh Valley IronPig David Lough who fended off the no-hitter, which was again, being thrown by a pitcher on baseball’s most wretched team who had a 6.43 ERA outside of Turner Field. Morgan did not help himself much this year, but when he did well in late May, the Phillies really left him hanging - the Nos. 1-6 hitters went 0-for-20 with six strikeouts.

Morgan had, at least, proven he could beat the Braves. Fortunately he just had to take on the league’s hottest team at the time in his next appearance:

Jeremy Hellickson, April 4 vs. Reds and May 30 vs. Nationals

And finally, since most of us have accepted that Hellickson’s time with the Phillies is drawing to a close, let us at least mention two times this season that will stick in his mind as he packs his bags, happy to be rid of this club (no matter what he says).

There was Opening Day, when the Reds scored a run in the first inning because Ryan Howard couldn’t handle a throw from shortstop, and was part of an offense that went 0-for-5 with RISP. Hellickson would allow no further runs to score, only three hits, no walks, and six strikeouts in six innings.

Then there was May 30, when he pushed through seven innings against one of the league’ most wild offenses, again walking no one, allowing only three hits, and striking out eight. He was pulled after only throwing 79 pitches. He struck out six of the last nine batters he faced.

Meanwhile, the Phillies lineup was mystified by Tanner Roark. They scored twice off of him on four hits, but seemed to have better luck in one inning against Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, when Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard both doubled to make it 4-3. But just when you got the bartender to turn the TV back to the Phillies game, Papelbon and the Nationals were already high-fiving.

For god’s sake, somebody please trade for this man. Somebody with bats.