The Phillies bullpen is not a happy land of sunshine right now, gang.
Before we delve into the intrigue at the palace, let us first dispense with the niceties. It was wonderful to see Carlos Ruiz back in town. During his brief two-day stop in Philadelphia, he had teammates over to his house the other night, probably had a cheesesteak or two, got teary-eyed meeting with beat reporters and then, in the series finale between the Mariners and Phils, blew the game wide open in the Mariners’ 11-6 whooping.
Before the game, the Phillies had a video tribute for the man who might be the best catcher in team history.
The Chooch tribute video: pic.twitter.com/QxTStkDFFW— Admiral Porkins (@Phrozen_) May 10, 2017
The loss means the Phils were swept by the M’s in the brief two-game interleague series, and dropped them to 13-19 on the season. In their last 12 games, the Phillies are 2-10, and now head to Washington for a three-game weekend series against the 21-12 Nationals.
Many of the Phillies’ losses this year have been heart-breakers, as evidenced by their 6-9 record in one-run games. However, after blowing two separate four-run leads on Tuesday, the abysmal Phils bullpen couldn’t hold a 3-3 tie in the 7th inning and allowed eight runs in the final three frames, five in the 7th inning alone.
The big blow was a bases-clearing, three-run triple by the conquering hero Ruiz, who also added an RBI an inning later. He came into the game with just one run batted in, but tallied four today.
Make no mistake, friends. This relief corps is an absolute tire fire right now and today, it was Joaquin Benoit’s turn to be a mess. He recorded just one out and allowed five earned runs on three hits with three walks and no strikeouts. His ERA is now 5.79.
Joaquin Benoit allowed 5 earned runs, 6 baserunners, recorded 1 out.— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) May 10, 2017
No Phillies reliever has done so since Ryan Madson in 2005.
But that’s not all. After the game, Benoit complained about how manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure have been using their relievers.
Joaquin Benoit took full responsibility for his performance, but said there needs to be a set role in the bullpen for everybody.#Phillies— Ed Benkin (@EdBenkin) May 10, 2017
Benoit: "I believe that if we have a set role, everybody will fall in place. Right now I think everybody is a different piece."#Phillies— Ed Benkin (@EdBenkin) May 10, 2017
#Phillies Joaquin Benoit is looking for consistency in bullpen. Thinks that's the issue & made clear he's not happy w/ how it's being used: pic.twitter.com/DHwUYfHrjn— Stephen Gross (@SteveGrossMCall) May 10, 2017
Benoit admitted he was “all over the place” and called for “a little consistency not just for the pitching staff, but the people that run it, too.”
But that appears to be a clear shot across the bow at Mackanin and McClure.
Are the complaints warranted? First, the optics are bad. It’s never a good look to complain to the media after you were just bombed. But it also should be noted Benoit was dumped from the closer’s role after just one blown save against Bryce Harper and the Nationals earlier this year, and still has had no defined role. Mackanin himself has yet to name a closer more than two weeks since Benoit was ousted from the gig.
But it’s also fair to expect a Major League relief pitcher to be able to record some outs whether he’s called to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning.
Edubray Ramos followed Benoit and got the final two outs, but allowed an inherited runner to score when he walked in a run. In all he allowed two free passes in that horrific 7th inning, with both relievers combining for five free passes in all.
One inning later, it was Jake Thompson’s turn to get blasted. He gave up a home run to Danny Valencia, a single to Guillermor Heredia, an RBI triple to Jarrod Dyson and a sacrifice fly to Chooch. He pitched the 9th inning as well and gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and no strikeouts. His ERA is 9.00, and after the game, he was sent back to down AAA, where he will continue to develop as a starter.
After giving up those eight runs in three innings, the Phils’ bullpen is now 24th in baseball in K% (20.4%), 28th in walk rate (10.8%), last in home runs per nine innings (1.80 HR/9), 27th in fly-ball rate (41.0%) and 28th in HR/FB (16.5%). Their 4.66 ERA is 23rd, but their FIP is dead last in baseball at 5.30.
Look folks, there’s no easy fix here. Luis Garcia will likely join the team from Lehigh Valley this weekend, but he’s never been a dependable arm, and because the Phillies have so many intriguing young starting pitchers on the 40-man roster, there is little room to add relievers the big league roster from Lehigh Valley or Reading.
In order for the Phils to add a minor league reliever, they would have to jettison a player like Adam Morgan, Mark Appel or Jake Thompson off the 40-man and add that young reliever.
A move like that may be coming, because the walking atrocity that is the Phillies bullpen cannot continue on like this for much longer.
For the first six innings, this game was close. Seattle jumped on top with a run off Zach Eflin in the first, then added two more on a two-run blast by Robinson Cano, who tallied four hits and a walk in the game. Eflin gave up nine hits and a walk, but pitched six innings and gave up just those three runs. His ERA sits at 2.81.
Phillies pitchers allowed two more dingers on the day, continuing a troubling season-long trend.
The Phillies bullpen has allowed 22 HRs this season, three more than the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Indians have combined.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) May 10, 2017
Phillies have allowed 52 home runs, most in the majors.— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) May 10, 2017
On pace to allow 263, which would be a major-league record.
Offensively, the big story of the day was the man who just might be the hottest hitter in baseball right now, Aaron Altherr. He hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 3rd, his third-straight game with a 3-run blast. It’s been a while since a Phillies player has done that.
Aaron Altherr is the 1st Phillies player since Mike Schmidt in 1981 to hit a three-run HR in three consecutive games.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) May 10, 2017
Aside from Schmidt, only one other Phillie has hit a three-run homer in three straight games, Andy Seminick in 1949. And the last MLB player to do it before Altherr?
Last MLB player prior to @AAltherr to hit HR in 3 straight w/ 2 or more on base: Carlos Gonzalez, 6/26-28 /2016 (from @EliasSports)— Dan Roche (@RochesRWinners) May 10, 2017
But that wasn’t enough for Altherr, who also added a solo homer in the 9th inning, his fourth homer in the last three games. On the season he’s batting .351/.435/.743 with a team-leading seven homers, 21 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
Among players with at least 80 PAs this season, his wRC+ of 202 is tied for 6th-best, his .487 wOBA is 4th, and his OPS of 1.179 is 5th. Altherr has quickly transformed himself from being a fourth outfielder to a Jayson Werth-clone, as well as the team’s best player.
One other hitter who has stepped up his game is first baseman Tommy Joseph, who also hit a 9th inning homer and went 3-for-5 with a double today. At the start of the month, Joseph was batting .179/.222/.254. He is now hitting .242/.311/.432, and is holding off a hard-charging Rhys Hoskins with his improved play this month.
Unfortunately, the contributions of Altherr, Eflin and Joseph weren’t nearly enough to cover up the ugly warts of a bullpen that has absolutely no answers for anything right now.
The relievers have made a habit of losing games in heartbreaking fashion this year. But on Wednesday, they transitioned things into “embarrassing” mode.
Neither is good.