The Phillies have had high highs and low lows in August, but one constant has been Kyle Gibson in his first month with the club.
Gibson matched his longest outing of the season Sunday afternoon by going eight innings in a win over the Padres. He allowed just one run, retired the final 14 hitters he faced and generated 13 outs on the ground.
"That was probably as locked as I've felt in a start since before the All-Star break," he said afterward.
The Phillies didn't have Gibson at the All-Star break. They acquired him two weeks later, at the July 30 trade deadline, from Texas with Ian Kennedy in exchange for Spencer Howard.
Both Gibson and Kennedy have done their jobs with the Phillies since the trade. Gibson has made four starts and all have been quality starts:
- 6.2 IP, 2 R at Pit
- 6 IP, 1 R vs. NYM
- 6 IP, 3 R at Ari
- 8 IP, 1 R at SD
He has a 2.36 ERA in those four games, three of them Phillies wins. His lone stumble so far came in a relief appearance in a rain-delayed game against the Dodgers.
"All day, J.T. and I were on the same page," Gibson said. "We had a really good plan going into today. I worked in the bullpen this week on setting my sights a little bit different with my eyes and keeping my head on the target a little bit. It was a combination of defense playing really good, offense getting us the lead and J.T. being spot on with every finger he threw down."
Gibson credited Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham for helping him make minor adjustments heading into the start in San Diego, where he shut down a struggling but potent lineup. Gibson handled the dangerous top of the Padres order, holding Trent Grisham, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado to two hits in 11 at-bats.
"I was able to use that glove-side fastball a lot better, command it a lot better and even use my changeup to both sides of the plate," Gibson said. "When I'm able to do that, I feel pretty good about how I can navigate a lineup."
Gibson finds his success with command and a mix of six pitches that he feels confident throwing in mostly any count. He's brought a degree of pitchability to the Phillies' rotation and certainly has a better idea on the mound than the pitchers he replaced at the back end.
"He's been great," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's thrown the ball extremely well. He's a complete pitcher. He holds runners, he handles his position, he's been handling the bat."
Kennedy, too, has settled in since allowing home runs in three of his first four appearances with the Phillies. He has not been scored upon in five outings since. Altogether, he's finished eight games for the Phillies without a blown save or loss.
Meanwhile, Spencer Howard is off to a rough start in Texas. He has allowed eight runs in 7⅓ innings across three starts, going just two innings his last time out. Howard's ERA for the season is 6.56.
The other player the Phillies brought back in that deadline deal was 22-year-old pitching prospect Hans Crouse, who has a 3.29 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13⅔ innings with Double A Reading.
Gibson, who spent his first seven seasons with the Twins before two with the Rangers, said earlier this month that he's never shared a clubhouse with as many superstars as he does now, with former MVPs like Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, a highly regarded catcher in Realmuto, a Cy Young contender in Zack Wheeler and former contender in Aaron Nola.
What he may not be aware of is that one of the biggest issues with the Phillies' roster since 2019 has been its top-heaviness. They've needed more solid, steady pros like Gibson.
The Phillies have suffered more than a handful of heartbreaking losses this season -- including Saturday night, when Nola allowed a game-tying two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning -- and Gibson thinks the Phils have been able to avoid a total freefall because of the veterans in the clubhouse.
Certainly, the Phils' series in Arizona leading into San Diego was their worst of the season. They rebounded by taking two of three, but they have a five-game deficit in both the NL East and wild-card race.
"One bad inning is not going to dictate how we feel about the series," Gibson said. "Nola threw the ball awesome for all nine innings but really just the one pitch, man. That's the team we've got. We've got a lot of veterans, we're going to play hard and not let one game dictate the next."
Girardi's watched it happen a lot this season. The Phillies' inability to sustain success but ability to respond when punched in the face explains their hovering around .500 all year.
"We’ve had a number of them. (Saturday) might’ve been the toughest one, I don’t even know," Girardi said. "But to respond the way they do, I give them a lot of credit. They’re grinding things out, they’re fighting and fighting. They’ll continue to do that. This team has no quit in them."