Phillies

Did Phillies GM Matt Klentak speak too soon about avoiding starting pitcher trade?

Did Phillies GM Matt Klentak speak too soon about avoiding starting pitcher trade?

Did Matt Klentak speak too soon when he indicated the Phillies are unlikely to pursue a starting pitcher ahead of the trade deadline?

Since the GM's comments on Friday, the Phillies have watched Nick Pivetta have another rough outing, pushing his ERA to 6.60 since June 1. They watched Zach Eflin, in his return from a brief DL stint caused by a blister, fail to make it out of the third inning Monday night against the Dodgers' tough lineup.

In between was a dominant start from Vince Velasquez, but it's fair to wonder if the Phils' rotation will hold up and keep the team in contention over these final 63 games.

"Right now starting pitching has been the strength of our team this year," Klentak said Friday. "We're very encouraged about not only the five here but also what we have in Triple A, and we're hopeful that that's going to mean that we can stay out of the starting pitcher trade market at the deadline because, if you can avoid it, that is definitely a market to avoid."

The starting pitching trade market is not strong. There's Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, who have both struggled of late. There's Matt Harvey, the returning Ervin Santana, Lance Lynn ... not many meaningful upgrades out there.

Hamels update

On Monday, MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported the Nationals and Rangers have discussed a Hamels trade. Washington is one of nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade.

Hamels has also been connected to the Phillies, and Todd Zolecki reported that the Phils did have a scout in Texas Monday for Hamels' start against the Athletics. Said scout might not have been impressed by the A's jumping on Hamels for seven runs and two homers in five innings.

It's going to be tough, though, for any team to feel great about sending prospect(s) to Texas for Hamels right now. Entering Monday night, he had allowed 30 runs in his last 37 innings. He's allowed a ton of home runs — 21 in 109 innings — and Hamels' 1.34 WHIP is higher than everyone in the Phillies' rotation.

The money

There's also the matter of Hamels' remaining contract. He has a $20 million club option next season that can be bought out for $6 million. So if a team acquires him ahead of the deadline, it will either be committing itself to a high salary for a mid-rotation piece, or it'll be spending $6 million in addition to Hamels' 2018 money just to get out of the deal after the season.

Happ over Hamels

If the Phillies do pursue a starting pitcher, Happ makes more sense. He's averaged just 4 1/3 innings per start in July but he's still capable of pitching well and deep into games. 

Happ's calling card over the years has been his deceptiveness. His arm slot is high, near his left ear, which creates deceptive velocity for the hitter because they're not seeing the ball until the last possible second. It's a major reason why Happ has been able to strike out 130 batters in 114 innings this season despite throwing his fastball in the 90-to-92 mph range.

Happ is a free agent after the season, but Toronto will still seek a solid return for him because he might be the best starter on the trade market. 

The Blue Jays have several players who could help the Phillies. There's the reported interest in Curtis Granderson, who would be a big boost to a weak bench. Yangervis Solarte is a switch-hitting infielder with pop who can play second base and third base, and though he's started only 17 games at shortstop the last two seasons, it's not like the Phillies have gotten exceptional defense from that position this season anyway.

Josh Donaldson is the biggest name of the bunch, but he seems like more of an August trade candidate because he's still not back from the calf injury that has cost him most of the season.

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Braves 5, Phillies 3: Phils eliminated as Atlanta pops champagne corks

Braves 5, Phillies 3: Phils eliminated as Atlanta pops champagne corks

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — And so the collapse is complete.

The Phillies, looking lifeless for the first seven innings, officially bowed out of the National League East race Saturday afternoon in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves locked up their first division title since 2013. They have beaten the Phillies three straight days in a four-game series that concludes Sunday.

The Phillies led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 at that point. Since then, they are 15-28. The Braves are 27-20 since then.

Still a postseason chance?

Not really. The loss reduced the Phillies’ tragic number for elimination from the wild-card race to two and it could be one by the end of the day. Winning the division had long been this team’s best route to the postseason and that shipped has sailed.

Or sunk.

The Phillies’ postseason drought will rise to seven years.

A fitting demise

Saturday’s elimination loss to Atlanta was befitting of the way the Phillies have played in recent weeks. They did not have a hit against Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz until Odubel Herrera’s leadoff single in the seventh. Phillies starter Jake Arrieta was torched for four hits and four runs in two innings — the shortest start of his career.

Too little, too late

Down 4-0, the Phillies rallied for three runs in the eighth. Cesar Hernandez had a two-run single and Rhys Hoskins snapped a 0-for-12 skid with an RBI single. Jonny Venters retired Aaron Altherr on a liner to left and Carlos Santana on a ground ball to short to strand two runners and preserve the Braves’ lead.

The Braves, aided by the Phillies’ 115th error of the season (second-most in the majors), got a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Big money, little return

Back in March, the Phillies signed Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract — his $30 million salary this season is the largest ever for a Philadelphia athlete — because they believed his talent and veteran experience would be valuable in snapping a long postseason drought.

Arrieta has come up small down the stretch. He has a 6.64 ERA over his last eight starts. In 12 starts after the All-Star break, his ERA is 5.09.

The right-hander came out of the chute Saturday with a pair of four-pitch walks. In fact, he issued four-pitch walks to three of the Braves’ first four hitters. He gave up a pair of two-run singles in the first two innings — one might have been shift-aided — and was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

Up Next

Carson Wentz makes his season debut Sunday.

Aaron Nola will also be in action for his 32nd start of the season. Nola is 16-5 with a 2.44 ERA. He is two-thirds of an inning shy of 200 for the season and has 210 strikeouts. Nola is scheduled to have one more start after Sunday, but it’s conceivable that the Phils will hold him out of that one and save some bullets for the next season.

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Phillies rack up record-setting strikeout numbers on both sides of ball

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Phillies rack up record-setting strikeout numbers on both sides of ball

ATLANTA — The Phillies set two team strikeout records on this trip to Atlanta — one good, one bad.

Jake Arrieta’s strikeout of Freddie Freeman in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Braves was the Phillies’ pitching staff’s 1,385th of the season, breaking a team mark set in 2012 by a staff that featured Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

In Thursday night’s series opener, the Phillies’ offense racked up its 1,418th strikeout of the season to set a club record for the second straight year. The Phillies entered Saturday’s game with 1,429 Ks, third-most in the majors behind the White Sox and Padres, two teams that were a combined 61 games under .500.

Phillies officials have said they can tolerate strikeouts as long as the team hits for power and maintains a strong walk rate. Entering Saturday, the Phils were fourth in the majors with 546 walks but 15th with 180 home runs.

On the pitching side, the Phillies had allowed just 1.07 home runs per nine innings, the seventh-best mark in the majors. They had issued 3.05 walks per nine innings, the 10th-best mark in the majors.

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