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Offseason moves get people excited and spring-training performances can generate optimism. But nothing offers a truer read on a ballclub than the rigors of everyday, regular-season competition.
Fourteen games into the new season, one thing is clear about this Phillies team.
It has holes.
More than were expected.
Bigger than were expected.
Seriously, this team hasn't gotten a hit from a starting centerfielder since April 4, the third game of the season. Roman Quinn's only hit of the season — he's 1 for 23 overall — came after he'd entered the game as a reserve on April 9.
The Phillies lost for the sixth time in the last eight games Saturday when they were hammered, 9-4, by the St. Louis Cardinals at gloomy Citizens Bank Park.
The Phils have gone 11 straight games without a hit from their starting centerfielder that day.
The position was suspect coming out of spring training. After 14 games, it has proven to be a bigger hole than was expected.
The Phillies also have another hole that they didn't plan on.
They've gotten nothing out of the No. 4 spot in their starting rotation. Lefty Matt Moore, signed to much wintertime excitement after a strong showing in Japan last year, has pitched poorly in three starts.
The Phillies were able to overcome Moore's first two poor starts and come away with victories, but they couldn't do it Saturday. Moore was tagged for six runs in the third inning as the Phillies fell to 7-7 on the season.
"I just couldn't put the brakes on that inning," Moore said.
Manager Joe Girardi pulled Moore in the middle of an at-bat — with the opposing pitcher at the plate.
"Joe is the skipper," Moore said. "He was done with what he was looking at. It didn't matter if it was a pitcher or who it was up there. I threw a curveball to the backstop. I don't have much of a leg to stand on. I was pretty poor out there in the third inning."
Defense has been an issue throughout the early season and it was again Saturday. So was the offense. The day after scoring nine runs in a series-opening win over the Cards, the Phils were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, left 11 men on base and had 13 strikeouts, reaching double digits for the ninth time in 14 games. They let Cardinals starter Kwang Hyun Kim off the hook in the first inning, scoring just one run and leaving the bases full. They also left the bases full in the ninth.
But starting pitching was the major issue in this three-hour, 54-minute slog. Moore simply did not give his team a chance. He did not keep the team in the game.
In three starts, Moore has allowed 17 hits and 12 earned runs in 11 innings. That's an ERA of 9.82 and that's a big concern.
Moore allowed back-to-back homers in the third inning and JoJo Romero, whose drop in fastball velocity is another concern, gave up back-to-back shots in the fourth. Yadier Molina homered twice for the Cardinals.
Aaron Nola pitches on Sunday before Chase Anderson takes the mound for Monday night's series opener against the Giants. Anderson has not pitched deep into games and that's a concern at the back end of the rotation. Moore might be a bigger concern.
It's all part of an issue that the team has been aware of for months — starting pitching depth. The lack of starting pitching depth was the reason the Phils brought back Vince Velasquez when conventional wisdom said it was time to say goodbye. It was the reason the Phils spent $3 million on Moore and $4 million on Anderson.
Girardi, at least outwardly, is not alarmed by Moore's first three starts.
"I still think it's too early to judge," he said. "Like hitters, pitchers can get off to slow starts too. I think today's issue was he was up in the zone and behind in the count a lot. He left some changeups up in the zone and that's a big pitch for him. We need him to locate better."
Girardi said Moore would make his next start. That one will come at Coors Field in Denver, never an easy place to pitch. Moore's career numbers in Coors Field are not pretty — 32 hits and 24 runs in 14⅔ innings. That's a 14.73 ERA.
If the Phils get to the point where they want to look at someone else other than Moore, they have just a few options, most notably Spencer Howard. After that, it's Velasquez and then a gaggle of depth arms waiting for the Triple A season to begin.
Moore was visited by the athletic trainer on the mound in the third inning but later said he was fine. Bryce Harper, who crushed the ball Friday night, did not play because of back tightness. He might be back Sunday. Jean Segura, like a lot of fans, left the game with an upset stomach.
Just an all-around bad day for the Phillies, a team with a lot of holes.