Typical Phillies fan cynicism drenched the observation: “Bailey Falter is the number one starter.” I was on the road when I heard it the first time, but the assertion has been repeated several times on local sports talk radio.
It reflected the duct-tape project the Philadelphia Phillies have already become in the 2023 season. More, it was entirely accurate about the Phillies starters. Of the five pitchers who have already started games for the team, only starter-reliever Matt Strahm had a better ERA than Falter’s 3.38 before play Saturday. None of the starters had a win as of Saturday morning, and it was not clear Strahm would take the next 5th starter’s turn in the rotation (Monday against the Marlins).
The Phillies situation currently is not one to be envied. Can their spirit save them?
The Phillies starter for Monday was “TBD” Saturday morning. By the afternoon, the Phillies website posted Strahm’s name. He would be the sacrificial lamb in a game started for Miami by Sandy Alcantara.
Nominal starter Ranger Suarez still had a sore forearm.
The 2-5 Phils were struggling despite a reasonably inspiring home-opening, 5-2 win over the Reds Friday afternoon. Although high-profile reliever Craig Kimbrel had a save in that game, his ERA was 15.43 and his WHIP 3.43.
But the problems among the Phillies position players were arguably even worse.
The Walking Wounded
Although Bryce Harper was blasting BP homers already, he and his repaired elbow are out until late May, minimally. First baseman Rhys Hoskins is about a week post-op from his ACL repair. His replacement, Darick Hall, is now scheduled for hand surgery.
A bit of the team power void Friday was filled by Edmundo Sosa’s career-first pinch homer.
Technically, though, Kody Clemens replaced Hall on Friday, and Clemens played first base passably. With his famous father in the stands, he added a walk that helped lead to a run.
Who will get the lion’s share of time at first until Hall’s return, if anyone, was undetermined. There was both vague and specific speculation floating about a trade. However, the only suggestion offered by Inquirer.com writer Scott Lauber that seems in any way attractive is Bobby Dalbec. (That’s based on age and the fact that Dalbec has also played third base.) There had also been talk during spring training of Castellanos taking some games at the position.
So, all in all, the NL champion Phillies were like that Corvair a high school buddy sort of fixed with duct tape – both the body and the carburetor.
But it was a pleasantly cool April day in Philly for Falter’s second start.
After surrendering a first-inning home run to Spencer Steer, the left-hander settled in, finishing six innings by retiring 12 in a row. He left at that point, trailing 1-0.
The Phillies offense, however, seemed just like that duct-taped Corvair for eight innings. Twice in the game the top of the order, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto, went down on consecutive strikeouts.
In the ninth, though, trailing 2-0, but spurred on by a loud Citizens Bank Park mob, the middle of the order finally produced. Nick Castellanos walked, Alec Bohm lined a single up the middle, pinch-hitter Brandon March singled to right, and Cincy suddenly led by only one.
Then Marsh stole second. A sacrifice fly by Edmundo Sosa tied the game as Bohm scored, then Bryson Stott singled sharply to give the Phillies a 3-2 win.
The Phillies duct-taped Corvair turned a corner, perhaps, smoking just a little.