The Phillies on Tuesday night lost a ballgame and a starting pitcher that they thought they had, but never really did.
An hour after starting pitching failed the Phillies again in a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, the team learned that a proposed trade with Pittsburgh had fallen through.
Earlier in the day, the Phillies thought they had a deal in place to acquire lefty starter Tyler Anderson for a pair of minor-leaguers, catcher Abrahan Gutierrez and pitcher Cristian Hernandez.
The deal fell through when the Pirates raised concerns over Hernandez' medical reports.
Just before midnight, ESPN reported that the Pirates had shipped Anderson to Seattle.
Phillies officials were not available for comment late Tuesday night, but earlier in the evening one club official expressed some displeasure over the way things were going down with Pittsburgh.
The Phillies wondered if they might have been cut off at the pass by the New York Mets, who were also in on Anderson. In the end, Seattle got him. Maybe the deal will calm Mariners players who publicly ripped general manager Jerry DiPoto in a Seattle Times story after he traded ace reliever Kendall Graveman to the Astros earlier Tuesday.
So, now the Phillies are back where they were, searching for starting pitching. The team has irons in the fire, but prices are high and the starting pitching market is not impressive, save for Washington's Max Scherzer, who probably won't be dealt within the NL East.
Many selling teams are looking for the Phillies to part with pitcher Mick Abel or infielder Bryson Stott and the Phils are reluctant to do that. They were the team's top draft picks in 2020 and 2019. The Phils would listen on Spencer Howard or Rafael Marchan for a top, contractually controllable player like Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel. He is a pie-in-the-sky bullpen target for the Phillies. Kimbrel's Cubs teammate Ryan Tepera might be a more realistic target. Prices could come down as Friday's 4 p.m. trade deadline inches closer.
The Phillies are locked in a tight NL East race with the Mets and Braves. The Mets are looking for starting pitching, as well. Jerad Eickhoff allowed 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to Atlanta on Tuesday night.
The Mets (53-46) lead the division by 3 ½ games over the Phillies (50-50). The Braves (50-51) are 4 games back.
The Phillies had their own starting pitching issues Tuesday night. Again. Matt Moore allowed six runs in four innings. All of the runs came in the first two innings on a pair of three-run homers, one by Josh Bell and the other by Juan Soto.
“It was tough,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When you spot someone a 6-1 lead, it makes it difficult. We’ve got to find people to get us outs.”
Shortstop Didi Gregorius contributed to the carnage in the first two innings with a pair of defensive miscues. He failed to make a play on a ground ball by Trea Turner with one out in the first inning. It was scored an infield hit. Soto followed with a hit and Bell launched his homer.
An inning later, Gregorius ran far down the left-field line for a foul pop up by Victor Robles. It was a tough play, but Gregorius got to the ball, had it in his glove – then dropped it. The at-bat continued and Moore walked Robles with no outs. Two outs later, Gerardo Parra, who had come into the game when Turner was pulled after testing positive for COVID-19, singled and Soto came up and belted a three-run homer to make it 6-1.
Moore settled down and gave the Phils a pair of scoreless innings before departing after four. Though he finished better than he started, Moore certainly did not pitch well. He allowed eight hits and a walk in four innings. His season ERA is up to 6.46. He has a 7.15 ERA in five July starts.
Moore’s performance was another indication of how badly the Phillies need a starting pitching upgrade.
They thought they had one Tuesday. In fact, after Tuesday night's game, Bryce Harper talked as if the deal was done and Anderson would be in the clubhouse Wednesday.
Not so fast.
In the aftermath, there are questions that need to be answered. Foremost: Did the Pirates renege on a deal? If they did, did they have a legitimate reason?
There are subplots to all this.
Pirates general manager Ben Cherington was pushed aside in Boston – and ultimately left on his own – when Dave Dombrowski, now leading the Phillies baseball operation, arrived there in 2015. Did Cherington whistle a high, hard one by Dombrowski's chin? More than one baseball person asked that question Tuesday night.
On a positive note, the Phillies have their best starter, Zack Wheeler, on the mound Wednesday night. He will face Washington lefty Patrick Corbin.
And the search for starting pitching beyond Wheeler continues after a crazy day of wheeling but no dealing for the Phillies.