The Philadelphia Phillies hadn't had to worry about pitching for some time until this season. Even when the Phillies didn't have one of their three or four aces on the mound, fans like myself didn't always have to be afraid. The likes of Vance Worley, Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick could usually hold down the fort for Philadelphia when the likes of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee couldn't come out.
But the Phillies' lack of pitching depth has been one of their many problems this year. It was reflected in this past series with the Atlanta Braves, which ended with the Braves getting a 12-6 win on Aug. 8 right after they were shut out by Hamels the previous night.
Combined with the six runs the Braves got on Aug. 6 with Worley on the mound, they scored 18 runs in this series - all of which came in two days. Of course, when the Phillies actually sent an ace to face the Braves, they got a shutout and their only win. But when they didn't have an ace out there - or even a struggling ace like Halladay or Lee - they got knocked around by a superior team.
Philadelphia's pitching depth hasn't been all there this season, which is even more glaring with Halladay and Lee's struggles. Worley has struggled to match the hot start from his rookie year last season, while Blanton has been sent out to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kendrick keeps going back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. He certainly didn't make a case to stay in the rotation against Atlanta, as he got lucky to even survive the second inning.
It took 50 pitches for Kendrick to get out of the second, as he gave up four runs in the process. He finally left in the fourth with the Braves up by 6-1, which looked like an insurmountable deficit with Tim Hudson on the mound for Atlanta. Yet in a flash, the Phillies knocked him out early as well with five runs in the fifth, as Ryan Howard capped it off with a tying three-run blast.
It was the bullpen that blew things from then on in, as the Braves torched the Phillies' relievers for four runs in the seventh and two in the eighth. But if Kendrick hadn't been knocked around so much, Philadelphia might have gotten a good lead with that big fifth inning, and then things might have been different.
Instead, the Phillies learned once again that Hamels is the only starting pitcher they can depend on this season. Perhaps things might have gone better with Halladay and Lee facing the Braves instead of Worley and Kendrick, yet that used to be a definite guarantee. Because it isn't and because the non-aces have been just as inconsistent, it is a major reason why Philadelphia is playing out the string right now.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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