Phils need to re­place Smyly in ro­ta­tion now

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Bob Brookover

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.

MATT SLOCUM/AP

The Phillies’ Drew Smyly, fac­ing the Pi­rates on Tues­day, should be booted from the ro­ta­tion.

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