The Phillies have some bullpen questions leading to Friday’s Wild Card game.
The Philadelphia Phillies will begin their first postseason series in 11 years on Friday afternoon, away against the St. Louis Cardinals. The starting rotation is set and will feature Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez in Games 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
The lineup should also be set — as the Phillies offense is healthy and will likely resemble lineups that were used in recent weeks. One area of the team that is a bit murky, however, is the bullpen.
Interim Manager Rob Thomson has used relievers in many different roles this season. Seranthony Domínguez, for example, was used in the closer role for much of the season before his injury. Since Domínguez’s return, he has struggled. In his last seven games, the hard-throwing right-hander posted a 13.50 ERA in 10 innings. The most startling statistic is his eight surrendered walks in just six innings.
David Robertson had also been used in a ninth-inning role since he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs. Robertson has fared a bit better than Domínguez lately, but has still given up six walks in his last three appearances. He was able to minimize damage, though, surrendering only one earned run in those games.
José Alvarado has been the most important part of the Phillies bullpen since he was brought back from his demotion in early June. In his last 30 games and 28 innings, the left-hander has a 1.61 ERA and an astounding 47 strikeouts.
Zach Eflin is one of the more intriguing pieces of the Phillies bullpen. Eflin — who has spent most of his career as a starter — was moved to the bullpen after dealing with a lingering knee injury. Since his move to a relief role, the right-hander has been impressive. In 7 2/3 innings pitched, he holds a 1.17 ERA with nine strikeouts and no walks.
When Thomson, was recently asked about bullpen usage and roles, he offered this quote about ninth-inning relief:
"“It all depends on the pocket leading up to it, because if it was the back end of [the Astros’] lineup yesterday, it probably would have been Eflin in the eighth and … [José] Alvarado in the ninth.”"
It sounds like Thomson will use pitchers depending on the part of the lineup they may face and days rest.
It is good for the Phillies to have many options who can perform late in games. However, it remains to be seen how well they will perform in the high-leverage situations that arise in the MLB postseason.