ATLANTA — The Phillies' need for another starting pitcher has not been more glaring than it was Sunday afternoon in a totally embarrassing 15-1 loss to the Braves.
With no fifth starter currently on the Phillies' roster, Gabe Kapler went with Vince Velasquez as an opener in Sunday's series finale and it did not work.
Velasquez hit Ronald Acuña Jr. on an 0-2 pitch to begin the game, before Dansby Swanson singled and Freddie Freeman hit a two-run double. In all, Velasquez allowed four runs in 2⅓ innings before giving way to Cole Irvin.
Irvin didn't fare any better, giving up a long two-run homer to the second batter he faced, Josh Donaldson, then giving up loud contact the next few frames. Irvin gave up six runs in 3⅔ innings as the Braves built an eight-run lead that only grew and grew.
Jerad Eickhoff, formerly the No. 5 starter, entered next and allowed two more home runs. Eickhoff has been taken deep an astonishing 18 times in his last 28 innings.
The Phillies didn't hit, didn't play good defense and definitely didn't pitch well.
They need to quickly figure out the back of this rotation. Granted, the next time the fifth spot in the rotation comes up is against the lowly Marlins Friday at Citizens Bank Park, but the league just isn't being fooled by Velasquez, Irvin or Eickhoff.
Other options would be Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez or a pitching prospect like Adonis Medina, who is on the 40-man roster and is on a nice little roll at Double A Reading, going 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA over his last five starts.
The Phillies are 39-32 and 2½ games behind the Braves in the NL East. The Braves are 24-10 in their last 34 games, six games better than the Phillies over that span.
The Phils have lost 10 of their last 16.
Down two starters
The Phillies were without starting catcher J.T. Realmuto and leftfielder Jay Bruce in this one. Realmuto exited Saturday's game after taking a foul ball to the groin and Bruce left with hamstring tightness. Both are day to day and will avoid the injured list.
It's possible one or both are back in the lineup Monday, though it could be Tuesday.
This is what a deep lineup looks like
Back when the Phillies had Andrew McCutchen and there was still hope/optimism about Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, they had what looked like one of baseball's deepest lineups. That is no longer the case. On Sunday, the Phils' 5-through-8 hitters were Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams, Franco and Andrew Knapp. Not going to scare anyone.
The Braves just have a much better lineup. In order:
1) Acuña Jr. is a beast.
2) Swanson has an OPS over .800.
3) Freeman is one of the two best hitters in the National League.
4) Donaldson is a former MVP and a dangerous right-handed bat that is starting to get hot.
5) Nick Markakis is a clutch left-handed hitter who rarely strikes out.
6) Austin Riley will be in the Rookie of the Year conversation and might win it.
7) Ozzie Albies has blazing speed and at .281, has a higher batting average than every Phillies starter except Scott Kingery.
It helps that the Braves have had eight fewer injuries than the Phillies, none to their current starting lineup. But the gap in offenses right now is impossible to overlook.
The Phillies are in D.C. to play four games against the Nationals, who are 9-5 in June. The Phils will face all three of the Nationals' top starting pitching trio.
All four games are at 7:05 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Monday: Jake Arrieta (6-5, 4.31) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (5-5, 4.11)
Tuesday: Zach Eflin (6-6, 2.81) vs. Erick Fedde (1-1, 3.68)
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta (4-1, 5.00) vs. Max Scherzer (5-5, 2.81)
Thursday: Aaron Nola (6-1, 4.89) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-4, 3.75)
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