Phils need to replace Smyly in rotation now
It was an important game for the Phillies and perhaps an even more important one for Drew Smyly.
Neither got their desired result as the Phillies followed their walk-off win Monday night at Citizens Bank Park with a 5-4 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on a Rhys Hoskins fielding error that should have ended the inning.
While the Phillies lost another game in mind-numbing fashion, it’s possible that Smyly lost his job.
After impressively winning his first two outings following his late July arrival via free agency, Smyly has reverted to the form that got him released from the Texas Rangers in midJune with an 8.42 ERA and again by the Milwaukee Brewers after he had posted a 4.97 ERA in three July starts at the Triple-A level.
Now, his time could be — and probably should be — nearing its end with the Phillies, at least if they are serious about going after their first postseason berth since 2011. In five August starts, Smyly has posted a 7.20 ERA and surrendered 32 hits, including nine home runs, in 25 innings.
Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez have lost their jobs in the rotation at various times this season with better numbers than that.
The Phillies, of course, have spent this season trying to find the right combination to pitch behind ace Aaron Nola and the degree of difficulty in that exercise rose significantly when the bone spur in Jake Arrieta’s elbow finally barked loud enough earlier this month to send him to the injured list for the rest of this season.
Jason Vargas has done enough to be considered the new No. 2 in the Phillies’ rotation, which is faint praise but not meant as a knock on the work turned in by the veteran lefty general manager Matt Klentak got for nothing from the New York Mets. After that, it is every man pitching for his rotation life every time he steps on the mound and Smyly, at the very least, has to be near the end of his rope.
The 30-year-old lefty who had missed the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery, pitched four scoreless innings Tuesday night. The problem was his work at both ends of those four innings. He allowed a triple and two-run homer to start the game and needed 23 pitches to record a single out.
“I need to do a better job right off the bat,” Smyly said. “The last two games I’ve put the team in a hole. The first two hitters the same exact thing.”
He finally settled in by getting All-Star Josh Bell on a strikeout for the first out of the game, and that started an impressive stretch that carried Smyly into the top of the sixth inning with a 3-2 lead.
Perhaps manager Gabe Kapler pushed his luck by sending Smyly back out for the sixth, especially after he allowed some hard-hit balls in the fifth.
“We all thought he could get through that inning for us,” Kapler said. “He wasn’t able to do it.”
Jose Osuna singled and Colin Moran crushed a cutter that was left over the middle of the plate for a two-run home run. The Phillies’ lead was gone.
“I wish I could take that pitch back to Moran,” Smyly said. “I wanted to be aggressive in the strike zone. I thought I did a good job of that all night by not walking anyone but I left a pitch over the middle and he took it deep.”
“I just try to improve every week,” Smyly said when asked about his job security. “Obviously the long ball has kind of been my kryptonite all season. Regardless of the results, I feel like I’m a way better pitcher than I was early in the season with Texas. I just have to keep building. I feel close.”
That’s nice and hopefully for his own sake Smyly can some day regain the form that made him a quality pitcher in his early days with Detroit and Tampa Bay. But the Phillies don’t have time to wait for that. They need wins right now and they have a better chance of getting them with a young stud like Spencer Howard on the mound.
The worst option going forward is to keep sending Smyly to the mound. There was a reason he was released by two other teams this season and over his last five starts we have seen that reason.
The Phillies’ Drew Smyly, facing the Pirates on Tuesday, should be booted from the rotation.