PITTSBURGH — With a doubleheader to play in New York on Monday and a starting pitcher on the disabled list, the Phillies’ pitching rotation is a jigsaw puzzle this week.
In need of an arm, the club brought up right-hander Drew Anderson from Triple A Lehigh Valley to face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. Anderson arrived in Pittsburgh at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night and less than 24 hours later was headed back to Lehigh Valley. He was able to give the Phillies five innings in his first big-league start — and that was important as the club plays 11 games in 10 days — but could not produce a victory as the Phils suffered 4-1 loss (see first take).
The Phillies had just four hits on the day. They struck out a dozen times and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Three of those hitless at-bats came after they put runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth inning.
“Drew came up and did a great job for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He gave us five strong innings. He gave us a chance to win it. We didn’t score a lot of runs, so that matters. Obviously, the spotlight will be on the start, but it’s not the only thing that happened today.”
Pittsburgh starter Nick Kingham held the Phillies to just a run over six innings. He also contributed a two-run double as the Pirates rallied for three two-out runs against Anderson in the fourth inning.
Anderson was one strike away from getting out of the inning when he threw Kingham a 1-2 slider that hung over the plate. Kingham clubbed it over Rhys Hoskins’ head in left.
“I think if we execute the pitch down and away, it's a strikeout or weak contact,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the slider to Kingham. “Just left it up in the zone a little bit. He was taking pretty good swings on the heater.”
Kapler had no problem with the pitch call.
“I love an executed slider in that situation,” he said. “For me, it’s mostly about execution of pitches rather than pitch calls, right? Every once in a while, there’s a misguided pitch call, but in this case I think it was just about execution. Drew made a lot of good pitches today, a lot of good fastballs down and away. He had life on his fastball, threw some really cool curveballs that kept them off balance. And this wasn’t his best pitch.”
Anderson confirmed that.
“That one probably is the most upsetting,” he said. “Executing pitches, that’s all it is. That one was not where I wanted it. It kind of just backed up on me.
“I just wanted to battle to save the bullpen and get a win. And then just a couple pitches just happened.”
An injury to Vince Velasquez and Monday’s doubleheader meant the Phillies needed two spot starters this week. Anderson was one, selected largely because he was the only healthy starter on the 40-man roster at Triple A. The Phils will need another starter on Tuesday in New York and prospect Enyel De Los Santos will reportedly fill that spot (see story). The club would first have to put him on the 40-man roster. If De Los Santos does not pitch for the Phils on Tuesday, he will start the Triple A All-Star Game on Wednesday.
“Everybody has been and continues to be in play all the way up to last night, when we selected Anderson,” Kapler said. “De Los Santos is certainly a candidate to start Tuesday’s game.”
Velasquez is expected to come off the disabled list and pitch Wednesday.
The Phils, who despite Sunday’s loss won the series in Pittsburgh and remain tied for first place in the NL East, have arranged their rotation so that their two hottest pitchers, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, will pitch Monday’s doubleheader against the Mets.
“Obviously, a series win here is huge,” Knapp said. “We were hoping for a sweep but to win every game except for one against that team is a huge feat for us. I think we're going to take this series win into New York and keep playing good ball.”
And having Nola and Eflin pitch on the same day?
“It's a great opportunity to go in and win two ballgames and kind of show everyone we're really here to stay,” Knapp said. “Those two guys don't need to do anything special. Just keep doing what they've been doing and go from there.”