Horrendous loss illuminates Philadelphia Phillies’ biggest trade deadline need

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 14: Corey Knebel #23 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on June 14, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 14: Corey Knebel #23 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on June 14, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Phillies bullpen implodes in appalling loss to Marlins

The first truly unbearable Philadelphia Phillies loss of the Rob Thomson era came on Tuesday night.

Yes, their 13-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, the decimation that ended their nine-game win streak, was terrible. But Tuesday night’s loss to the Miami Marlins was worse, because the Phillies clawed their way back several times, only to implode in the ninth inning. Rhys Hoskins went 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs and 6 RBI, which is more than some lineups manage together, and it still wasn’t enough. In painfully familiar fashion, they blew not one, but two saves.

For the first time since Joe Girardi’s firing on June 3, the Phillies felt like the Phillies, and that’s a bad thing.

The only good thing to come from this game – aside from Rhys Hoskins – is that the manner in which they fell shined a bright light on what this team needs at the trade deadline.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

The Phillies need bullpen help

It feels like the Phillies need more in the ‘arm barn’ every year, but 2022 was supposed to be different. After the bullpen’s horrific results in 2021, the front office made it clear that a complete makeover was the top priority and shelled out over $20M to sign some solid pitchers to one-year deals. Corey Knebel, who led the NL in appearances in 2017, got $10M. They calculated that Brad Hand, who led the NL in games finished and MLB in saves in 2020, would bounce back from a poor 2021 campaign, and gave him $6M. Jeurys Familia got the same.

For the most part, these signings have paid off; the bullpen is vastly improved.

Hand has been more than excellent. He has a 1.96 ERA over 26 appearances, including a scoreless outing on Tuesday. Knebel leads MLB with 23 games finished. His 3.24 ERA is a tad misleading; 19 of his 25 appearances have been scoreless, and only twice has he allowed more than one run. However, he picked up his fourth blown save of the season in Tuesday night’s debacle, when he faced four batters and didn’t record an out. Though none of the three runs were charged to him, the outing is a serious blemish on his record.

And as Meatloaf famously sang, ‘two out of three ain’t bad.’ Familia is that third. On Tuesday, he came in to relieve Zach Eflin, whom the Marlins tagged for four runs over six innings, and immediately made things worse. Recording just one out, the Marlins quickly put three more on the board, all earned. With James Norwood recently designated for assignment, Familia’s 4.50 ERA (25 games) is now the worst among all bullpen arms with at least 20 appearances. His contract is expensive, but when his pitching is this destructive, his leash shouldn’t be this long.

Team ERA leader Seranthony Dominguez, finally back after two years of injuries and Tommy John, finally looked mortal on Tuesday night, allowing his first home run of the season.

After so many upgrades and the resurgence of Dominguez, the Phillies shouldn’t need more bullpen help, but once again, they do. The good news is that, unlike last year, it’s not a total teardown. Even adding one reliable arm should make a difference.

Of course, with this team’s bullpen history, it’s fair to wonder if anything or anyone will ever be enough.

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