Get bullpen help.
For weeks, those three words have been etched in ink atop the Phillies’ to-do list ahead of the July 30 trade deadline. But after Vince Velasquez allowed six earned runs while recording just seven outs against the Braves on Saturday night, patching a suddenly hemorrhaging starting rotation may be the Phillies’ most pressing need in the coming days.
Much like Matt Moore did in the series opener, Velasquez buried the Phillies in a huge early-inning hole. Unlike Moore, he could not even muster a mild rebound to spare the bullpen an extended evening of work en route to a dreadful 15-3 loss.
As he was two weeks ago in Boston, Velasquez was bad from the start.
Freddie Freeman, who is unofficially hitting .984 against the Phillies this season, set the tone early by cranking a two-run shot off the Toyota sign hanging in right.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 24, 2021
Velasquez would surrender a solo shot to Abraham Almonte in the second before creating another mess in the third. With one run already across and two runners in scoring position, Phillies manager Joe Girardi yanked Velasquez after just 53 ineffective pitches and turned to reliever Brandon Kintzler.
After getting the second out of the inning, Almonte broke the game open with a two-run single that made it 6-0.
Almonte’s hit closed the book on Velasquez for the night, and if the Phillies can find a rotation upgrade (or two) in the coming days, it may also close the book on Velasquez as a starter with the Phillies.
He now has a 5.54 ERA overall and a 5.45 ERA as a starter this season. Remove the 18 scoreless innings he’s thrown against the Miami Marlins, and his numbers get even uglier. In 61 2/3 innings against all other teams, Velasquez has allowed a staggering 49 earned runs (7.15 ERA).
Oh, and just to be clear, the Phillies still need bullpen help.
So, Uh, Now What?
Earlier Saturday, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was asked about the possibility of adding free agent starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Dombrowski estimates the 37-year-old Hamels remains about 30-40 days away from game action, while adding he doesn’t know if the Phillies will have a spot for him following the deadline.
“If you sign him, you’re basically — short of him coming back, amping up, and getting hurt — you’re basically telling him you’re giving him a spot in the rotation,” he said. “And I don’t know if we’re in a spot right now I can 100% say that. Five days or six days, I may be able to say that.”
The Phillies may not have an open rotation spot in five or six days, but I can tell you one thing, they 100% have one right now.
Really, they have two spots.
The team expects Zach Eflin to return on the short side of a 10-day IL stint. Still, Velasquez’s shortcomings have been established, and Moore holds a 5.79 ERA while repeatedly failing to pitch deep into games this season.
The Phillies aren’t making any type of run without passable production from those two spots.
Note: You can read the full story of Dombrowski’s session right here.
Lineup Fails to Make Smyly Pay
Didi Gregorius entered the night with three grand slams in a Phillies uniform. They could have really used a fourth — or even just a base-hit — when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Braves starter Drew Smyly began the inning by completely losing control of the strike zone, walking Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, and Alec Bohm to load the bases with no outs.
A potential opening for the Phillies to mount a comeback was quickly slammed shut as Gregorius tapped a 1-1 fastball back to the mound that started a 1-2-3 double-play. A batter later, Travis Jankowski popped out to end the inning, and with it, the competitive portion of the game.
A Total Mess
Phillies reliever Enyel De Los Santos worked a scoreless seventh inning, but he failed to escape the eighth.
After a Gregorius error and Joc Pederson single sandwiched a Pablo Sandoval strikeout, Ozzie Albies launched a three-run homer out to right field to make it 10-1.
— FanSided (@FanSided) July 25, 2021
With Girardi looking to understandably spare his taxed bullpen, the game devolved into a total clown show when he turned to infielder Ronald Torreyes for the final five outs of the game.
Braves third baseman Austin Riley promptly greeted Torreyes with a second-deck blast to left that traveled 439 feet.
Austin Riley hunts the 2nd deck
— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) July 25, 2021
In the ninth, Joc Pederson would add Atlanta’s, like, fourth exclamation point of the night with a three-run missile:
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 25, 2021
It’s Been Awhile
In the interest of doing fair and balanced journalism, as we always do here at Crossing Broad, let’s hit a positive note before wrapping this thing up.
Bryce Harper swiped third base in the first inning, giving him four stolen bases over his last two games. Now at 12 steals for the season, he has an outside shot at becoming the first Phillies’ player to record 20 homers and 20 steals in a season since Jimmy Rollins did it back in 2012. That year, Rollins swiped 30 bags and hit 23 homers.