Reliable Gibson goes 7 scoreless: 'You don't worry about him'

August 28th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- did not have his best Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, and the Phillies still won.

That didn’t always happen last year.

The 2021 Phillies did not beat up bad teams. They were 50-41 (.549) against NL teams with losing records. But following Saturday’s 6-0 victory over the Pirates, Philadelphia has won 18 of its last 20 against NL teams with losing records. It is 38-16 (.704) against them overall.

The Phillies play their next 16 against teams with losing records. They don’t play a team with a winning record until Sept. 16-18 in Atlanta.

“Last year, it was kind of the downfall of us, honestly,” Gibson said. “And this year I feel like our mindset coming into these games has been a little bit crisper and with a little more edge than we had in the past. It’s easy to get a little lackadaisical and complacent when you’re playing these teams. These guys are playing hard. They either have jobs to win or they’re trying to be a spoiler. Lately we’ve done a great job of coming out, getting a lead early and really setting the tone to the game.”

The Phillies loaded the bases in the first inning, and J.T. Realmuto cleared them with a double to take a 3-0 lead. Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm knocked in runs in the second. Nick Castellanos homered in the third.

Gibson took care of the rest. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and one walk and striking out nine.

“The six-run lead helped,” Gibson said. “Honestly, I didn’t feel very sharp warming up. I’ve told you guys before when you can take to the mound things you worked on in the bullpen. Today was not one of those days. Yesterday, I felt great just touching the mound with my changeup. Today my changeup didn’t feel good until the fifth inning. Just delivery-wise, I didn’t feel sharp. I felt like I was in 2-0 counts three times an inning.”

But Gibson managed, like he has managed for a while. He is 5-2 with a 2.80 ERA in his last nine starts. He has pitched six or more innings in seven of them. He has allowed two runs or fewer in five of them.

Gibson’s reliability this season has been important to the Phillies. They placed Zack Wheeler on the 15-day injured list on Thursday with tendinitis in his right forearm. Wheeler said Friday that he expects to miss only two starts and that the club made the move for precautionary reasons. He hopes to be back Sept. 6 against the Marlins.

Wheeler is the third Philadelphia starter to land on the IL this season. Zach Eflin has not pitched since June 25 because of a chronic right knee issue. Concerns surrounding his health are why the Phillies traded for Noah Syndergaard on Aug. 2. Ranger Suárez missed a couple of weeks before the All-Star break because of back spasms.

Aaron Nola and Gibson are the only regular Phillies pitchers not to miss a start this year because of an injury.

But this is what Gibson does, isn’t it? He pitches.

From the beginning of the 2014 season through Saturday, Gibson ranks fifth with 1,424 1/3 innings pitched.

He trails Max Scherzer (1,633 1/3), Zack Greinke (1,549), Gerrit Cole (1,489 2/3) and Madison Bumgarner (1,431 2/3). Justin Verlander (1,365), Jon Lester (1,363 2/3), Clayton Kershaw (1,360), José Quintana (1,349 1/3) and Dallas Keuchel (1,344 1/3) round out the top 10.

There are 10 Cy Youngs and 49 All-Star appearances in that group. There are four likely Hall of Famers in Scherzer, Greinke, Verlander and Kershaw.

Gibson is right there in the middle.

“He’s really resilient and dependable and durable,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said. “When you’ve got a guy like that, you don’t worry about him.”

If Gibson continues to pitch like this, you wonder where he might slot into Philadelphia’s postseason pitching plans. It has been a fun thought exercise in recent weeks, even though the Phillies have a long way to go. You know if Wheeler and Nola are healthy and available, they will likely start the first two games of a series. Game 3? A case could be made for Gibson. 

“You try to fight those thoughts away until you can clinch,” Gibson said. “It’s something you think about from a kid through high school to college through professional baseball, getting that chance to start on the biggest stage possible. I’m excited for the opportunity, but we’ve got a lot of business to take care of.”

Like beating the Pirates on Sunday and every other team they should beat the next few weeks.