You probably don’t want to hear this, but here is the unfortunate truth: The Phillies have more games left to play in the 2020 season. I know it seemed like the past week should have marked the end of the season for the Phillies, but we’ve still got eleven more games to get through.
And hey, the Phillies are still technically right in the mix for one of the many playoff spots that MLB has created for this season. (And forevermore apparently?) But come on now, do you really think this team is making the playoffs?
Multiple times in the past, I’ve written that the bullpen was likely to improve at some point. I based this hope on the fact that they several pitchers who have experienced success in the major leagues before, so it didn’t seem outlandish to think that at some point they’d stop being historically bad.
With 5 runs in 3.2 innings tonight, the ERA of the #Phillies' bullpen climbed to 7.17.— schmenkman (@tgpschmenk) September 18, 2020
They will only end up pitching about 190 innings this season, but have a chance to make some history.@TheGoodPhight pic.twitter.com/rPDZezShMU
Wrong! I don’t know if this is an example of chaos theory (I’ll have to re-read Jurassic Park) or some other not-easily-defined concept, but the Phillies’ bullpen may have somehow transcended our basic understanding of what being bad is. The Phillies’ bullpen has transformed into a collective of awfulness so powerful that it assimilates previously competent relievers and turns them into run-allowing disasters as well.
While I would miss him if he was traded, for JoJo Romero’s sake, I hope he gets traded to another team so that he can avoid this fate.
Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 26-22 (Third place in American League East)
The last time they met
The Phillies ventured to Buffalo for a quick doubleheader against the Jays, and (suspend disbelief for a second here, folks) the bullpen blew both games, giving the Blue Jays a sweep. The first game featured the “Jose Alvarez gets blasted in the groin” incident which meant that the Phillies lost one of their few relatively reliable relievers for the remainder of the season.
Jose Alvarez, one of the best relievers the Phillies have, just took a line drive to the groin. He finished the play, but was carted off the field pic.twitter.com/KsUcB9BsVW— Shaun Nestor (@shaun_nestor) August 20, 2020
The Blue Jays have gone 14-11, and currently hold one of the American League’s wild card spots. As far as I know, they have not grievously injured the testicles of any other opposing pitcher in that time.
However, their most recent series served as somewhat of a kick to the groin to the Blue Jays themselves. The Yankees swept them in a three-game series in which the cumulative score was 43-15.
DJ turns on a 49mph heater!— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 16, 2020
Yankees 20, Blue Jays 3#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/TeFimf1Uaf
Good luck, Junior
Everyone expected Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to come up to the major leagues and immediately establish himself as the next great superstar. And while his first two seasons with the Jays haven’t been bad, he has fallen well short of superstardom thus far. The past two weeks have been especially rough, as he’s batting just .208 over that span.
Note: It seems that when I write negative things about a particular player, it has often served as a good luck charm, and they go on to have a big series. The combination of the above paragraph and the Phillies bullpen should mean Vlad will go 10-18 with three home runs in this series.
Offense gotta eat
Considering the state of their bullpen, it should go without saying that the Phillies would benefit from scoring a lot of runs in every game. However, they need to take advantage of the pair of starters the Blue Jays have going in Friday night’s doubleheader.
Robbie Ray came over from Arizona in a midseason trade, and he can be counted on to walk a batter or five each time out. In the second game, the Phillies will face another midseason pickup in Ross Stripling. Since joining the Jays, Stripling has given up six runs in just 7.1 innings across two starts.
Walk Hard: The Robbie Ray Story— ®️ob ♓️ill (@realhill76) August 27, 2020
This being the Phillies, it’s obvious how this is going to play out: As they often do, the Phillies will score a bunch of runs early in the game against these guys. Will the offense dry up after they’ve been removed in the fourth inning or so? That’s less clear.
Home sweet home?
Because the Phillies’ series at Buffalo Toronto was postponed due to COVID-19, the first game of Friday night’s doubleheader will technically be an away game for the Phillies. Maybe the Phillies should mentally envision that the game is actually being played in Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Because as we know, nothing bad has ever happened to a Phillies reliever in that stadium.
I feel safe in predicting that the Phillies’ offense will score enough runs in one of the four games to provide a lead so large that even their bullpen can’t blow it. But considering that the Phillies are likely to start Vince Velasquez in one game, and exclusively use the bullpen in two others, there’s little reason to expect the Phillies to win more than one game in the series.