The Phillies just spent a week on the west coast facing two of the best teams in baseball. They paid a visit to the defending World Series champion Dodgers in SoCal, then headed up the coast to the first-place San Francisco Giants and their own former manager, Gabe Kapler.
This trip was a huge test for the Phillies, who are 34-35 on the season, four games behind the Mets in their division. They’ve been a pretty middle-of-the-pack team for much of the season, hovering just above or below .500, but they only managed to win one game in each of the west coast series.
But as the All-Star break and trade deadline loom, the Phillies and Dave Dombrowski will need to decide if this is a season to push for October or pull back and wait until next year.
We learned a lot over these two California series. Here are three takeaways:
The Phillies starting rotation needs help
Girardi and Dombrowski need to figure out a way to shake up the Phillies rotation. These are the final lines from each start during the Dodgers and Giants series:
Spencer Howard: 4 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR
Zach Eflin: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Zack Wheeler: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K
Vince Velasquez: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
Aaron Nola: 2 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2 HR
Zach Eflin: 5 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 4 HR
Eflin and Nola’s games over this trip were particularly concerning, though at least Eflin was able to eat innings to help preserve the bullpen over these two challenging series. But overall, Zack Wheeler, who has emerged as the ace of the rotation – though he doesn’t have much competition for the role – was the only starter who effectively shut down one of the two potent offenses the Phillies faced this season.
The Phillies are dealing with a mess of injuries, but they also don’t have many options to replace Eflin and Nola. It’s been suggested that Ranger Suárez – who has been efficient and effective in relief this season – move from the bullpen to the rotation, but that could also impede the great season he’s currently having.
If the Phillies don’t pick up a few more wins and edge closer to the Mets by the end of the month, Dombrowski might not think it’s worth it to make any moves before the deadline. But one thing’s certain: this rotation in its current form ain’t it.