Phillies

Zach Britton traded to Yankees as Phillies miss out on another top reliever

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Zach Britton traded to Yankees as Phillies miss out on another top reliever

The three best relievers on the trade market are off the board and the Phillies got none of them.

The Orioles on Tuesday night traded left-handed closer Zach Britton to the Yankees, further bolstering an already electric New York bullpen. Britton joins Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Chad Green in a 'pen filled with pitchers who could be closers on other teams.

With Brad Hand being traded by the Padres to the Indians last week and Jeurys Familia being dealt from the Mets to the A's, the Phillies have missed out on the three biggest difference-making late-relief options.

That is, unless Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is available. The Phillies head to Cincinnati later this week after they wrap up with the Dodgers. Cincy is under no real pressure to trade Iglesias but could move him for the right price. MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported Tuesday that the Phillies are one of four teams checking in with the Reds about their relievers, including Iglesias.

Miami's Kyle Barraclough is the next-best option after Iglesias.

Other than that, most of the available relievers are mediocre options who wouldn't be much better than what the Phils currently have. You're looking at guys like Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera, Seunghwan Oh, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Shane Greene.

One other possible option for the Phillies would be to acquire a starting pitcher — they've been in on J.A. Happ — and to move Nick Pivetta to the bullpen, where his velocity could play up even more than it has in the rotation.

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4 starts, 4 Nationals wins — Phillies' Patrick Corbin decision could sting for years

4 starts, 4 Nationals wins — Phillies' Patrick Corbin decision could sting for years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four starts against the Phillies, four wins for the Nationals behind Patrick Corbin.

Six innings, three runs on May 4. Seven innings, one run on June 19. A quality start with 10 strikeouts on July 13. And on Monday, six innings of one-run ball.

Monday's 7-2 Phillies loss made their tragic number the loneliest number. If the Phillies lose either game of the doubleheader, or if the Brewers win, the Phillies' playoff hopes will finally die on Tuesday.

As for Corbin, well, he played a pretty crucial role in the 2019 NL wild-card race. It has been a career year for the 30-year-old left-hander, who signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals about three months before Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies.

Corbin is 14-7 this season with a 3.05 ERA in 32 starts. He will reach 200 innings for the third time in his career and unless he gets hit around in his final start this weekend, he will finish with his lowest ERA ever. That is especially impressive with the MLB average ERA soaring from 4.14 last season to 4.51 this season.

Corbin's slider is one of the best in baseball. A lot of the time, he doesn't even need to throw it for a strike. It looks like a strike out of the hand but just sweeps and dives out of the zone until the hitter flails over it. His opponents hit .148 against the slider last season and .156 this season. The Phillies swung through 10 of his sliders on Monday and went 0 for 8 against Corbin with runners in scoring position.

"He's just got a good fastball-slider combination. Both of his pitches look the same to our guys," manager Gabe Kapler said. "That's why he's been so successful in this league. You're not sure which is coming at any given time. It boils down to good stuff and being able to throw it below the zone."

Corbin has been one of the five best starting pitchers in the NL. Rank them however you'd like, that group includes Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Corbin, Stephen Strasburg and either Walker Buehler or Jack Flaherty.

The Phillies' slide began in mid-June, which is right around the same time Corbin turned it on. In 18 starts since June 19, he is 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA.

The Phillies did not like the idea this past offseason of committing six years to Corbin. That was understandable at the time. Contracts that long for starting pitchers rarely work. If you pay big money for six years and get four strong ones, it's a win.

Who knows how Corbin's deal will play out? There might be a season lost to injury. In Year 6, when he's in his mid-30s, he may be more of a back-end rotation piece. That's almost the cost of doing business when it comes to signing a free-agent ace. 

It's hard not to look back at that contract and wonder, what if? What if the Phillies did make an exception for Corbin and still did everything else they did this offseason? With a 1-2 punch of Aaron Nola and Corbin, would this team be leading the wild-card standings or would all of the pitching injuries still have crippled them?

Impossible to say. But Corbin this season has solidified himself as a legit ace, the same way Anthony Rendon has solidified himself as a legit superstar. Corbin is better than any pitcher the Phillies have and Rendon is better than any of their hitters. Say what you will about the Nationals' constant October disappointments, there is no denying the immense individual talent they've collected through drafting, developing and signing players. That collection of talent is why Washington ran away from the Phillies and hid after a slow start.

This winter's free-agent class contains a handful of interesting starting pitchers. Gerrit Cole is the obvious big fish. Zack Wheeler might prove to be the best buy. Madison Bumgarner will draw a ton of attention. Cole Hamels, coming off a six-year contract of his own, could be viewed as a worthwhile short-term investment.

The drastic pitching misevaluations the Phillies made all throughout 2019 tend to result in people losing their jobs. Passing on Corbin was palatable at the time because it was expected the Phillies would eventually add more starting pitching. But they didn't, outside of salary-dump pickups and waiver claims.

Had they signed Corbin this past offseason, they'd be in a better place now and heading into 2020, though it would have also resulted in less flexibility to supplement Harper and J.T. Realmuto with another position player star in the future. If the Phillies do end up with Rendon, Cole or a player of that ilk, the Corbin decision won't look like as much of a mistake.

But if the Phillies don't end up with another impact player or two this offseason and another year of the primes of Harper and Realmuto go by, that Corbin decision will be harder to justify.

He'll get a chance to remind them why three, four, five times every year through 2024.

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Phillies' 10th loss in 15 games to Nationals again shows massive gap in talent

Phillies' 10th loss in 15 games to Nationals again shows massive gap in talent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Phillies were no match for Patrick Corbin or the top of the Nationals' order in a 7-2 loss, their fourth in the last five games.

At 79-76, the Phillies are one loss to the Nats or one Brewers win away from being eliminated from the wild-card race. The second game of Tuesday's doubleheader might be totally meaningless.

Zach Eflin gave up three early solo home runs to Adam Eaton, Yan Gomes and Trea Turner. Out of top two spots in the order, Turner and Eaton were 5 for 8 with five runs. You're not going to win many games putting so many runners on base in front of Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.

Corbin didn't need much support. He allowed one run over six innings, struck out six and held the Phillies hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

One-sided series

The Phillies are 5-10 against the Nationals this season. You'll recall that they began the season series with a commanding 8-2 win in D.C. on April 2, the night Bryce Harper hit a 458-foot home run in his first game back.

The next afternoon, Rhys Hoskins dropped a routine throw at first base and David Robertson imploded as the Phillies blew a two-run, eighth-inning lead. That would have been the Phillies' fifth straight win to start the season. Here they are 150 games later, still without a five-game winning streak.

It has basically been all downhill from there for the Phillies in their head-to-head matchup with Washington. The Nationals went 7-1 against the Phillies this season in games started by Max Scherzer, Corbin or Stephen Strasburg.

Harper does it again

Harper baited Soto and Nationals third base coach Bob Henley into an aggressive send in the first inning. Deep in right-center and flat-footed, Harper nailed Soto at the plate for his 13th outfield assist of the season, tying his career-high from 2013 when teams knew less about his defense and were more willing to test him.

Harper has been very good in right field this season, worlds better than he was in 2018. He faced many questions during spring training about his defense. None of those questions will be asked in February or March of 2020.

Realmuto shut down?

J.T. Realmuto was out of the lineup with right knee soreness. He had an MRI Monday night which will help the Phillies determine whether there is a risk of further injury. If there is not, Realmuto could be back this season. If there is, it will be an easy decision to shut him down (more details here).

Old stomping grounds

In 15 games against the Nationals this season, Harper has hit .260 with a .415 on-base percentage, three doubles, two homers and eight RBI.

He had a good year against the Braves (7 homers, 1.016 OPS), a decent year against the Marlins (12 RBI in 13 games, .917 OPS) and struggled against the Mets (.226/.342/.403).

Who starts Tuesday?

The Phillies will start reliever Blake Parker in Game 1 Tuesday. It will be a bullpen game.

Game 2 pits Aaron Nola (12-6, 3.75) against Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.81).

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