Rhys Hoskins’ absence from the middle of the lineup weakens the Phillies in many ways. But it’s never quite so glaring as when they face left-handed starting pitching.
The Phillies are 20-25 this season against lefty starters, the latest loss coming Tuesday night. Brewers lefty Eric Lauer held them to four hits (all singles) in seven innings of a 10-0 rout in Milwaukee that, in conjunction with the Braves’ 8-5 victory at home over the Nationals, bumped the Phillies to 2 1/2 games back in the NL East.
Manager Joe Girardi tried to gin up the offense against Lauer by moving J.T. Realmuto into the leadoff spot ahead of Jean Segura and lefty-hitting Bryce Harper. But that left Andrew McCutchen as the lone right-handed power threat in the middle of the order. Realmuto, Segura, Harper, and McCutchen combined to go 2-for-15 against Lauer and two relievers.
The Phillies will probably face Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland at home this weekend and the Mets’ Rich Hill next Saturday or Sunday in New York. In the last week of the season, they could match up against the Braves’ Max Fried and Drew Smyly and the Marlins’ Trevor Rogers and Jesús Luzardo.
Without Hoskins, who recently had season-ending surgery to fix a lower-abdominal tear, can they overcome their problems against lefties?
“This is what we have,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to get it done. I mean, you can’t say, ‘If we had this guy or had that guy.’ We don’t. We have to find a way to get it done with the guys that we have.”
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Two-strike hits were a killer again for Aaron Nola in another disappointing September start.
After Matt Vierling’s first season in the Phillies’ farm system, his swing was out of whack. He went home to St. Louis, worked with a personal hitting instructor, and made the necessary adjustments, as Matt Breen reports.
Tonight: Kyle Gibson vs. the Brewers’ Freddy Peralta, 7:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Suárez starts at home vs. the Rockies, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Phillies’ bullpen vs. Colorado’s Germán Márquez, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Zack Wheeler faces the Rockies, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Nola starts the series finale vs. the Rockies, 1:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Nola gave up five consecutive two-out hits in the Brewers’ three-run third inning Tuesday night.
It was a familiar sight.
If there’s been a common denominator in Nola’s struggles this season, it has been two-strike hits. He has allowed 69 hits with two strikes, second in the majors to only Texas’ Jordan Lyles (71).
“It’s just making a pitch, is what it is,” Girardi said. “He’s left some balls up with two strikes that have hurt him.”
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: So, is it time to end the Aaron Nola experience? I’m sure his value has slipped this year, but if the Phils can get a good haul for him? Would you consider him the biggest disappointment this year? Thanks. Love Extra Innings! — JD via email
Answer: Thanks, JD. Trade Nola? No, I wouldn’t do that. For one thing, the “Aaron Nola experience,” as you put it, is pretty good. He has been among the best pitchers in the league, this season notwithstanding, and he’s under contract through at least next year. As you also noted, the Phillies would be selling low. That’s never a good idea.
Nola’s season reminds me a lot of Cole Hamels’ 2009. It was a down year for an otherwise excellent pitcher. And with Wheeler’s emergence as an ace, the Phillies don’t need Nola to be their No. 1 starter. If I’m the Phillies, I move forward with Wheeler, Nola, Gibson, Zach Eflin, and Suárez in the rotation and look to upgrade in other areas.