Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Struggling Phils face sinking Buccos

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Struggling Phils face sinking Buccos

Phillies (63-80) vs. Pirates (69-72)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

After losing three straight to the Nationals, the Phillies come back home to face the Pirates in a four-game set. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phils while the Buccos turn to young ace Gerrit Cole with their playoff hopes nearly done.

Here are five things for Monday evening.

1. Sinking ship in Pittsburgh
Just a few weeks ago, the Pirates were in prime contention for a wild card spot in the National League. However, after back-to-back seasons losing in the Wild Card Game, the Pirates don't look poised for a return trip.

The slide began on Aug. 20 at home, when the Pirates started a three-game set with the Miami Marlins. The Marlins swept them before the Astros came in to take two of three. After a four-game sweep of the Brewers, the Pirates promptly lost eight straight games, taking them completely out of contention. It doesn't help that they're coming off a three-game losing streak to the last-place Cincinnati Reds.

In total, they've lost 11 of 18 games over the last three weeks. 

Part of the reason has been a below-average performance from the starting rotation. Monday's starter, Cole, has been out since Aug. 24 with a herniated disk in his lower back. The rotation as a whole has a 4.70 ERA in the last 30 days. They've been good at preventing home runs (only 19 allowed in their last 28 games), but they've also only averaged 5.39 innings per start and have given up 164 hits in their last 151 1/3 innings.

Their offense has also had a bit of a power outage. They have just 26 home runs over the last 30 days. The Phillies have the same number of homers but in 163 fewer plate appearances.

2. Hellickson's offseason value?
Jeremy Hellickson has thrown 166 innings this season, his most since 2013, when he tossed 174 innings. He has 28 starts, three shy of his career-high from 2012 and 2013. His 138 strikeouts are already a career-high and his WHIP (1.19) is the lowest its been since his first full season in 2011.

All that is to say that Hellickson has rebounded. While it may say something about the Diamondbacks utilize their starting pitchers, it likely means that Hellickson is fully removed from his shoulder injury. 

This offseason, the 29-year-old could be in line for a significant payday. That seemed unlikely a year ago, but this season showed Hellickson's value. Beyond a rising home run rate, he's become a reliable starter that can eat innings. There's very little depth on the free-agent pitching market and Hellickson could get a multi-year deal.

The biggest question is whether he will receive a qualifying offer from the Phillies, which will probably be worth upwards of $16 million. Ian Kennedy, a pitcher with a somewhat comparable track record, received one last year and rejected it before getting a five-year deal.

Wade Miley and Anibal Sanchez, two current pitchers, are marked as similar to Hellickson at this point in his career. Miley's most recent deal was for three-years and more than $6 million a year while Sanchez is four years into a five-year, $80 million deal. 

3. Scouting Cole
As mentioned above, Cole will be starting for the first time in nearly three weeks. It was Cole's second DL stint for the back injury and the third DL stint of his four-year career (shoulder fatigue in 2014).

Cole started against the Phillies on July 22, which was his second start removed from the first DL stint. Cole was solid in that start, allowing just one run over six innings. He gave up six hits, a walk and two HBPs, but he struck out seven in the outing. Unlucky for Cole, Zach Eflin outdueled him with a complete game shutout.

Cole turned 26 years old four days ago. He has just 114 innings this year and a 3.55 ERA after making an All Star appearance in 2015 with a 2.60 ERA over 208 innings. He has a 7-9 record, but he has never had fewer than 10 wins in a season. 

The 26-year-old righty attacks with a mid-to-high 90s fastball that averages over 95 miles per hour. His main offspeed pitch is a high-80s slider. Cole also works in a low-80s changeup.

The slider produces the highest strikeout percentage while the changeup has been quite hittable this season.

4. Quinn is quick
The Phillies are getting an extended look at outfield prospect Roman Quinn over the next few weeks after he made his MLB debut on Sunday (see full story).

The 23-year-old speedster has at least 29 steals a season since making his professional debut in 2012. This season he has 36 stolen bases and just nine caught stealings, good for an 80 percent success rate. During the Double A playoffs against Trenton, he went 3 for 3 on stolen base attempts.

What potentially distinguishes Quinn from Ben Revere as a leadoff hitter is his potential for extra bases. Quinn had 26 extra-base hits in 71 games with Reading this year and he eclipsed an .800 OPS for the first time in his career, slugging a career-high .441. 

One issue could be strikeouts. Quinn is moving to the majors without any time in Triple A and already struck out nearly once per game this season. Major league pitchers could overwhelm the youngster, although these weeks will be crucial to give him an early look at superior pitching.

5. This and that
• Cole is 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies. He averages a hair under six innings per start and has 30 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.

• Hellickson has two starts agains the Pirates, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Both starts were last season and Hellickson threw 10 innings, gave up 10 hits and had 10 strikeouts.

• John Jaso, current Pirate and Hellickson's former teammate, is 1 for 9 against the righty in his career. Pedro Florimon has a home run in two at-bats. Andrew McCutchen is 1 for 3 with three walks.

• Maikel Franco, who is likely to start on Monday, is 3 for 4 with a double and a hit-by-pitch in five plate appearances vs. Cole. Oduble Herrera is 2 for 9 with six strikeouts.

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Phillies star prospect Alec Bohm made his major league debut at third base on Thursday night, a pretty big moment for the future of the organization. 

Things went wrong basically all night for the Phils - of course! - but the 24-year-old managed to smack his first career at-bat down the third base line for a double, quite a way to begin a career.

While his parents and girlfriend couldn't be in attendance at Citizens Bank Park because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they were certainly watching. And, thanks to technology, we can watch their reactions to Bohm's first hit.

Here's what an MLB debut hit looks like in 2020:

Man, that's just the best. 

So much to love in a 41-second clip - Bohm's dad keeping his cool and noting the double; his mom's absolute exuberance; his girlfriend commenting on Bohm's smile - but my favorite part is the quote from his mom at the very end.

"Go baby go!"


After an otherwise brutal night for the Phils, I'm going to just keep watching this video on repeat. At least one thing went right.

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Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

For the third straight night, the Phillies blew a multi-run lead against the Orioles in the middle innings. And for what feels like the 30th straight night, the Phillies' putrid bullpen didn't come close to keeping the game close.

It resulted in another loss as the Phillies were swept at home by the O's, losing 11-4 Thursday with seven of those runs coming against the Phils' bullpen.

Jake Arrieta had been cruising and the Phils built a two-run lead on J.T. Realmuto's opposite-field home run in the bottom of the fourth. But the next half-inning, Arrieta lost his command and couldn't pick up the final out with the bases loaded.

The Orioles scored four times in the fifth inning, the biggest hit a bases-clearing double from outfielder Anthony Santander.

Baltimore tacked on seven more runs against the Phillies' bullpen, which has a 10.13 ERA. Phillies relievers have allowed 48 earned runs in 42⅔ innings, which seems almost impossible.

"You have to be able to pitch to win games in this league, and quite frankly we just haven't thrown the ball well," Realmuto said. "We haven't done well late in games, in particular, when we've needed it. To win a division and to get to the playoffs, you need a really good bullpen. That's an area where we haven't done that well so far. We've got the guys to do it, we've just got to get better."

The Phillies are 5-9. They have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, ahead of only the Pirates.

"It's concerning," Realmuto said. "With this shortened season, we've got to get it going quicker. It's definitely being talked about in the clubhouse. We're trying to pick each other up and stay positive. If you have one good week, you're back in it. Especially in our division, nobody is really running away with it yet."

Bohm's debut

Making his MLB debut, third baseman Alec Bohm's first major-league plate appearance ended with a double down the third-base line. He struck out looking in his second at-bat and flew out to a step in front of the warning track in right field to strand two runners in his third AB. In his final at-bat, he drilled a ball to the warning track in right-center for a flyout.

Bohm was also involved in Baltimore's fifth-inning rally. Pedro Severino rocketed a ball right under his glove at third base. It was the second-hardest hit ball of the night to that point and was a tough play but still probably one a big-league third baseman has to make.

Prior to the game, Phillies GM Matt Klentak described the team's plans to integrate Bohm into the everyday lineup.

Bryce and J.T. do it again

The Phillies are 5-9 but they might be something like 2-12 without their best two players. Realmuto hit a pair of two-run homers Thursday night, giving him 7 HR with 17 RBI on the season. Both home runs came after an extra-base hit from Bryce Harper, who doubled and tripled.

Harper is hitting .356 and leads MLB with a 1.202 OPS. Realmuto is hitting .292 and slugging .729, third to only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Realmuto has three more home runs than any other big-league catcher despite the Phillies having played a handful fewer games than most of the league.

There is a very good chance this is the hottest Harper and Realmuto will be in 2020. It would be hard to be hotter. If that's the case, the Phillies wasted all of this production.

Arrieta's night

Arrieta appeared to be on his way to another strong start before that fifth inning. He followed six shutout frames against the Braves with four zeroes Thursday night, extending his scoreless innings streak to 12 before the Orioles broke out.

"There's no reason I shouldn't have been able to throw at least seven innings in that game," Arrieta said. "A couple of runs should have been enough. Giving up four in the fifth kind of took the wind out of our sails. That one's completely my fault. I had multiple opportunities to make a pitch and get out of that inning. Just wasn't able to do it."

Through three starts, Arrieta has a 4.02 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 15⅔ innings.

More bad bullpening

Debuting Connor Brogdon was welcomed to the Phillies' bullpen by allowing two homers and three runs in 1⅓ innings. The Phillies have nine relievers with an ERA over 8.00 and ended up using position player Neil Walker for the final two outs.

Up next

The Phillies welcome the Mets to town for a three-game series this weekend. Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch for the Mets in Game 1. The Phillies will go with Spencer Howard for his second major-league start.

Aaron Nola starts for the Phillies Saturday, while Zack Wheeler faces his old team Sunday.

After the weekend, the Phillies play 10 straight games and 20 of their next 29 on the road.

"We obviously haven't performed up to our standards, that's for sure," Arrieta said. "There's really no time to worry about it. We just have to play better. We already have to catch up quite a bit."

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