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Phils getting rhythm back after long pause

@ToddZolecki
August 4, 2020

Nobody envied the Phillies on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Not because they faced Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. But because they faced Cole following an eight-day break from baseball. The Phillies had seven consecutive games postponed because of COVID-19 concerns following a

Nobody envied the Phillies on Monday night at Yankee Stadium.

Not because they faced Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. But because they faced Cole following an eight-day break from baseball. The Phillies had seven consecutive games postponed because of COVID-19 concerns following a season-opening series with the Marlins. It meant the Phillies worked out only three times before they faced the Yankees, who are one of baseball’s iron teams.

How do you judge a game like Monday night’s 6-3 loss to the Yankees? It was the Phillies’ first game since July 26 and just their fourth game of the season. It was the Yankees’ ninth.

Box score

Even Phillies manager Joe Girardi wondered.

“I think someone on this call could write a pretty good book with some of the stuff we’ve had to face this year,” Girardi said. “You get a rain delay tonight. It’s been a strange year, but I really believe our players have adapted to it pretty well. If they continue to do that, good things are going to happen.”

The Phillies entered Monday scheduled to play 57 games in 56 days. No Phillies team has done that since the “Wheeze Kids” in 1983, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. No Major League team has done that since the 1998 Yankees. But following Tuesday’s postponement due to anticipated bad weather from Hurricane Isaias, the Phillies will play 56 games in 54 days. It puts pressure on everybody, especially the pitching.

Will they have enough?

“It seems like the deck is stacked against us, but that doesn’t matter,” Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta said about the schedule. “There’s only one way to handle it and it’s prepare the best way we can physically and keeping our bodies in a position where we can make those things happen. We have guys that can do that. Our guys are all physical.”

Arrieta made his season debut against the Yankees. He allowed seven hits, three runs and two home runs in five innings. He struck out four consecutive batters, including the side in the fourth, appearing to get better as the game continued. Arrieta pitched in an intrasquad scrimmage on July 22, setting him up to make his debut July 27, but it was postponed. Arrieta threw a bullpen session Wednesday, making him the Phillies’ readiest starter.

He allowed a leadoff homer to DJ LeMahieu in the first and an opposite-field home run to Brett Gardner in the third. But there were reasons to be encouraged.

The Phillies need somebody to step up behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. They need their rotation to perform, because the early returns on the Phillies’ bullpen are troubling. It has a 6.75 ERA (11 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings).

Deolis Guerra walked Aaron Hicks, hit Giancarlo Stanton with a pitch and served up a three-run home run to Gio Urshela in the sixth to turn a two-run deficit into a five-run gap. It proved costly as the Phillies scored one run in both the seventh and eighth innings. (Cole allowed one run in six innings, although the Phillies hit him hard. Jay Bruce hit a solo homer in the third, and Cole’s 94.2 mph average exit velocity was the sixth highest out of 154 regular-season starts for him since 2015.)

“I think it’s really hard to judge our bullpen right now just because we haven’t played in a week, eight days,” Girardi said. “Some of these guys haven’t worked in eight or nine days. We try to get them as much work as we can, but it’s still not game conditions.

“You ask all relievers, they want consistent work. They don’t want to sit for a week and then expect to go out there and have pinpoint control and have a good feel for their breaking ball and whatever other pitches they have. I think they need some consistent work before we really make a judgment.”

Fifty-six games in 54 days does not leave a lot of time for judgement. Girardi knows this.

“If we were to make changes, you’re calling up kids who have no experience as well, in a sense,” he said. “These were the guys we thought threw the ball the best during the camps and they've got to get it done.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .