Thanks to the brilliant pitching of Aaron Nola and a three-hit performance by Bryce Harper that included a looooong first-inning home run, the Phillies won the Sunday rubber match with the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-0, and improved to 7-2 at home.
Now former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and the San Francisco Giants come to town for the start of a three-game series Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. The Giants salvaged the final game of their series down in Miami on Sunday with a 1-0 win over the Marlins and come to Philadelphia with a 9-6 record.
San Francisco’s strength so far this season has been its pitching. The Giants have a 2.90 team ERA, third in baseball. If you think the NL East has tough pitching, consider this: The only two teams with better ERAs than the Giants are their division rivals San Diego (2.50) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2.79).
Buster Posey, the best catcher in baseball before J.T. Realmuto assumed that title, is back with the Giants this season after sitting out last year because of COVID-19 concerns.
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Phillies need better from the bottom of the rotation
Sandwiched between seven outstanding innings from Zach Eflin on Friday night and a sensational two-hit shutout by Aaron Nola on Sunday, the Phillies got another clunker from No. 4 starter Matt Moore in a 9-4 loss to St. Louis on Saturday.
That’s why Chase Anderson’s start Monday night in the series opener against the Giants is so important.
The Phillies don’t need brilliance from the bottom two starters in their rotation, but team president Dave Dombrowski was at least hoping for some veteran savvy and competence when he signed Anderson for $4 million and Moore for $3 million.
Through five starts, Moore and Anderson have a combined 7.20 ERA and the Phillies are 2-3 when they take the mound. Remarkably, the Phillies have won two of Moore’s starts even though he has a 9.82 ERA and has allowed four home runs in 11 innings.
“I still think it’s too early to judge,” manager Joe Girardi said after Moore recorded just eight outs Saturday against St. Louis. “As hitters [do], pitchers can get off to slow starts, too. We need him to locate better.”
They also need both Moore and Anderson to pitch deeper into games. Neither has pitched into the sixth inning yet, and if that trend continues, it will take a toll on the bullpen.
The Phillies have lost both of Anderson’s starts, but he has been better than Moore, allowing four earned runs on five hits in nine innings. Both of his outings were against the Mets, who are very good at grinding out at-bats. Five walks and a hit batter also hurt Anderson in his first two starts.
Girardi is correct in saying that it’s too soon to turn elsewhere for rotation help, but if Moore does not show considerable improvement in his remaining April starts, the Phillies will likely have to consider other options.
That, too, could be a problem because rotation depth appears to be a real weakness in a division where other teams could get some serious lifts from injured pitchers as the season progresses. The Mets are expecting the return of Noah Syndergaard. The Braves are hoping for the return of Mike Soroka, and the Marlins are hoping Sixto Sanchez returns from a shoulder issue.
The Phillies have Spencer Howard waiting in the wings, but Dombrowski said before the season that the team wants to limit the rookie right-hander’s innings. Howard has never thrown more than 112 innings in a season. The Phillies, however, might have to lean on him more than expected if Moore and Anderson do not show improvement.
Vince Velasquez also continued to give the Phillies no reason to have any confidence in him with another poor relief effort Saturday. Velasquez came on for Moore and posted a second straight bizarre pitching line in a bad way. He was not charged with a run, but he allowed three hits, walked three and struck out four in throwing 63 pitches in 2 1/3 innings.
In three outings, Velasquez has thrown 112 pitches in four innings and allowed four earned runs on three hits and eight walks, striking out nine.
He’s another reason the Phillies need Anderson to be good Monday night.
Bryce Harper sat out Saturday’s game with a back issue, but looked just fine while leading the Phillies to their Sunday win over St. Louis.
Kapler is not surprised by Sam Fuld’s rise to the role of general manager with the Phillies.
Jeff Singer and Zach Warren, a couple of left-handed relievers in the Phillies’ farm system, are among the many people eager for the return of minor-league baseball.
Harper returned to the lineup and hit his third home run of the season Sunday against St. Louis, but only after his back soreness flared up Saturday morning and kept him out of the lineup for the first time this season in the Phillies’ 9-4 loss to the Cardinals.
Tonight: Gabe Kapler returns to Citizens Bank Park with the San Francisco Giants, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler faces San Francisco’s Logan Webb, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: A matinee matchup between Zach Eflin and Giants ace Anthony DeSclafani, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday: Off day.
Friday: Phillies begin a seven-game road trip against Colorado at Coors Field, 8:40 p.m.
Stats of the day
A couple of interesting statistics came out of Sunday’s game. Harper is 12-for-15 (. 600) with seven doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and a 2.089 OPS in his last five games against the Cardinals. According to Elias, the last Phillie to have nine or more extra-base hits in a five-game span against a single opponent was Chuck Klein, who had four doubles and five homers in four games against Cincinnati, from Sept. 11, 1930 to June 2, 1931.
Jean Segura, meanwhile, extended his hitting streak to nine games with a couple of hits. He’s hitting .481 (14-for-31) with three doubles, a home run, four RBIs and six runs scored during his streak. He is 8-for-13 (.615) with four extra-base hits in his last four games.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Answer: I really don’t think that’s a place Girardi should go right now even though Bohm is off to a bit of a shaky start at third base. A season ago, Bohm made three errors in his first nine games at third base, but then made just one more in his final 32 games at the position and also played seven error-free games at first base late in the year after Rhys Hoskins was injured.
The time may come that the Phillies will have to move Bohm, but for now he should stay at third base and continue to work on his defense, especially his throws across the infield. He is a very hard worker, so I do think he will improve.