PHILADELPHIA -- Last weekend, the Phillies woke up on Sunday with the second-worst record in the National League. They woke up this Sunday riding a five-game winning streak and just two games out of first place in the NL East.
They could use more help before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. The Phillies’ front office has been contacting teams about potential deals, but there are indications that nothing is imminent.
“I like how our team stacks up,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I think at times we have played really well during the season. I look at our rotation, I think our rotation has been one of our strengths. When you’re running a good starter out there every day you have a shot. That to me is very exciting. I like our team.
“I can’t tell you if we’re done. If there’s a way to improve our club and there’s someone out there that can help us, I’m sure Matt [Klentak] will do everything to make it possible.”
The Phillies will play five seven-inning doubleheaders in 15 days beginning Sept. 8, so they could use more pitching. Based on Girardi’s words, a starter is unlikely. Behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, the Phillies have Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez. Howard is the team’s No. 5 starter. He will make his fourth start of the season on Monday. Velasquez is a starter by trade. He can pitch one half of a few of those doubleheaders.
Girardi said the Phillies could use the bullpen in one or two of those games, too.
“I’m not so sure that’s what we would be after,” Girardi said about rotation help. “But if something falls in your lap, it falls in your lap.”
The Phillies could use another reliever, but how much more is the front office willing to pay? They already traded right-handers Nick Pivetta, Connor Seabold and Addison Russ to the Red Sox and Yankees on Aug. 21 for Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Hale. The bullpen has a 2.12 ERA (four earned runs in 17 innings) during its recent five-game winning streak. It is not only because of Workman and Hembree. (Hale had not pitched since Aug. 11 before making his Phillies debut Sunday.) Holdovers like Héctor Neris and Tommy Hunter have pitched better, too.
“It has paid dividends,” Girardi said about the Phillies’ early aggressiveness in making those deals almost 10 days ago. “Because we might be one of those other teams [as sellers] had we not done that. And that would have been very difficult. I think it was a great move. They did it as soon as they could and they seized that opportunity.”
Offensively, the Phillies are putting up top-tier numbers. They entered Sunday averaging 5.36 runs per game, which ranked third in baseball. Their .344 on-base percentage was second. Their .451 slugging percentage was fifth. According to Statcast’s expected metrics, the offense has even been a little unlucky. Its batting average (.260), slugging percentage (.451) and wOBA (.336) are lower than their xBA (.268), xSLG (.480) and xwOBA (.355).
The feeling here is that if the Phillies make a trade it will be a more modest move, rather than one that shakes the baseball world. Besides, they could activate outfielder Jay Bruce from the 10-day injured list on Monday and left-hander Ranger Suárez from the injured list in the next couple of days. Both Bruce and Suárez could help the offense and bullpen, respectively.
In fact, Suárez could be the swing man who could help the Phillies in those doubleheaders.
Girardi frustrated with ejection
Girardi got ejected in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 12-10 loss after he asked crew chief Bill Welke to talk about a fair ball that Ender Inciarte hit up the first-base line.
Inciarte hit the ball in foul territory, but the backspin put the ball in fair territory. It took such an unusual spin that the umpires thought it hit Inciarte for a foul ball. Except the ball never came close, which is why Inciarte ran to first base.
“I said the hitter told you everything you needed to know,” Girardi said. “He started to run. I was surprised I got thrown out. Of the 30-something ejections I’ve had, I have deserved most of them. Maybe all of them. But tonight I didn’t deserve to get tossed for what I said and I’m pretty frustrated by it.”
• Right-hander David Robertson suffered a setback and he will not throw for another six weeks, ending his chances of returning this season from Tommy John surgery. He pitched only 6 2/3 innings for the Phillies after signing a two-year, $23 million contract before the 2019 season. “It was really tough because I know what type of competitor David is,” Girardi said. “He wants to be out there every day. He loves those moments. When I managed him [in New York], he threw a ton of huge innings for us.”
• The Phillies on Sunday placed outfielder Mickey Moniak in the 60-man player pool.