Twenty-one games into the season, all of the Phillies' weaknesses have been exposed and the back of the rotation might be the biggest concern of the bunch.
Chase Anderson was given a two-run lead Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, but after three strong innings, he fell apart in a seven-run Rockies fourth. It was yet another short outing for a Phillies starter not named Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler or Zach Eflin. The Phillies lost 12-2.
Anderson has made four starts, Matt Moore has made three and Vince Velasquez one. Here are the combined numbers of those eight starts:
• 7.11 ERA
• 1.83 WHIP
• 3.95 innings per start
"For our No. 4 and 5 starters, when they get in those long innings, it’s really tough," manager Joe Girardi said. "We need more out of them. And I think they’re more than capable of giving us more."
None of the three has gone more than five innings in a start and even that has been done only twice. It’s a major issue and it offsets the quality of the top three in the rotation. The Phillies are 2-6 in games not started by Nola, Wheeler or Eflin.
Anderson and Moore are here on one-year deals worth $4 million and $3 million, respectively. You have to wonder how soon Spencer Howard might find his way into the rotation, even as the Phillies look to monitor his innings. He appeared in this game after it was already well decided, pitching two innings and allowing three runs with four strikeouts.
"It is frustrating," Anderson said. "I signed here because I want to win. I know I can pitch at this level and have for a long time. It just goes back to executing pitches."
The key at-bat in the game was Anderson against Rockies pitcher Jon Gray in the decisive fourth inning. There were two outs and runners on the corners with the Phillies up a run and Gray hit a game-tying single. The Rockies scored five more times in the inning.
"Sometimes we haven’t scored some runs but today’s game got away from us," Girardi said. "If he gets the pitcher out, I think it’s a completely different game."
Prior to the Rockies’ offensive explosion against Anderson and David Hale (who served up a grand slam to Trevor Story), this game was all about Bryce Harper. He homered in the first inning, threw out a runner at the plate in the second inning and homered again in the third inning. The first one went 430 feet, the second one 468 feet.
Harper is having a terrific month and the Phillies have to be frustrated that they're 10-11 in what might be the hottest stretch he has all season. He’s hit .338/.471/.662 with six home runs. The Phillies' top three players — Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Nola — have been very productive this month yet the team is 10-11.
It did not matter in the grand scheme of Sunday's game, but Didi Gregorius committed another bad error, bobbling a routine ball to shortstop. It was his fifth error already in 18 games, and his defense is another big concern in the first month of a two-year, $28 million contract. He was bailed out by Harper’s outfield assist later in the frame.
The Phillies are 2-7 on the road and head to St. Louis for a four-game series.
Zack Wheeler opposes Adam Wainwright in Game 1. It’s Zach Eflin and Carlos Martinez in Game 2. The Phillies’ starter for Game 3 is unclear, though it could be Velasquez again with Moore (COVID protocols) unlikely to be ready for that start. Aaron Nola goes in the series finale Thursday.