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Last week, the Phillies were able to separate Matt Moore and Chase Anderson in their starting rotation thanks to two convenient rainouts against the New York Mets. Joe Girardi opted to pitch Nola on Sunday rather than Anderson, and the move paid off as Nola threw his first complete game shutout, allowing two hits and zero walks.
Moving Nola between Moore and Anderson gives Girardi more flexibility with his bullpen. That flexibility of course, counts on the fact that his starting pitchers will throw more than five innings into the game. On Monday, Girardi didn’t want to pull Chase Anderson from the mound but with runners on second and third and nobody out, both Mickey Moniak and Nick Maton struck out, bringing up the pitcher slot in the lineup. Instead of sending Anderson to the plate, Girardi used Brad Miller as a pinch hitter, meaning that the bullpen would now have to record 15 outs and hope that the offense could mount a comeback. They did not.
Yesterday, Zack Wheeler had a four run lead against the Giants. The problem is that he used 105 pitches for 5 2/3 innings of work. With Wheeler not throwing more than six innings, the Phillies were yet again using multiple bullpen arms and ultimately, got stuck with Connor Brogdon on the mound in the eighth inning, where he let up two three-run home runs and the Giants won 10-7.
Every pitching decision is connected. Sam Coonrod had to come in earlier than anyone wanted on Monday night and thanks to Wheeler last night, pitched longer than Girardi wanted as well. The Phillies are without their two best relievers in Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado. Using Coonrod in long stints the last two days likely means he won’t be available today at 1:05pm.
Matt Moore, who is now on the COVID-19 protocols list, has thrown 11 innings this season and has allowed 17 hits, 13 runs, 12 earned runs, four home runs, while walking nine. He has a 9.82 ERA.
Chase Anderson has pitched 13 innings, allowing 10 hits, six earned runs, three home runs, while walking five. He has a 4.06 ERA.
On Friday, the Phillies will send Vincent Velasquez to the mound with Matt Moore on COVID protocols. This season, Vinny Velo has faced 22 batters, walking eight, and striking out nine. As we all know, Velasquez is hardly a reliable option as a depth piece for the Phillies starting rotation.
Joe Girardi has stated that Moore is not yet in danger of losing his rotation start but it’s not like he has much of a choice regardless. The Phillies have Velasquez, and behind him they have Adonis Medina, Francisco Morales, Ranger Suarez, and Bailey Falter. Spencer Howard is the top prospect in the Phillies farm system but he is no where close in being a member of the Phillies starting rotation.
Luckily for the Phillies, the National League East as a whole is experience pitching issues as well. The Braves have three out of five pitchers in their starting rotation on the injured list. Their starting rotation ERA is ranked 24th in the MLB at 5.31. The Nationals are without Stephen Strasburg, who is sidelined with shoulder pain, and their 5.73 starting rotation ERA ranks dead last in the MLB. The Mets have yet to be tested thanks to constant postponements and have luckily been able to work with a four man rotation through the early goings of the 2021 season.
It doesn’t look like there’s much the Phillies can do over the next month. They will have some flexibility come June, with a total of seven days off during that month. That will give them the option to continue to explore separation between their fourth and fifth starters and even move to a four man rotation if needed.
For now, the pressure remains on Nola, Wheeler, and Eflin to perform every time they take the mound.