Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta was brilliant Thursday against the Orioles, striking out 11 in seven innings before leaving with a 4-1 lead. The Phillies went on to win 4-1, too, but not before manager Gabe Kapler used four similarly talented right-handed relievers to finish it off.
Here’s how it went:
Tommy Hunter: 1/3 IP, allowed two hits
Luis Garcia: 2/3 IP, allowed one walk
Edubray Ramos: 2/3 IP, struck out both batters he faced
Hector Neris: 1/3 IP, game-ending groundout
The move in the eighth made some sense, given that Hunter had allowed two of the three batters he faced to reach. Still, why take Garcia out after two outs afterwards if you’re not going to go to your closer? And why remove Ramos after two strikeouts in a three-run game. Not that we like it when managers manage to their players’ statistics, but that switch cost Ramos what would have been his second career save, and it didn’t earn one for Neris, since he would have needed to pitch the full inning (or enter with men on base) to pick up the save in a three-run game.
So, Kapler used four relievers even though the Phillies are due to play eight straight days. Maybe it was what he wanted to do going in; the Phillies had Monday off and were rained out Tuesday, so the guys hadn’t pitched in a while. Still, one imagines they’ll all be busy this weekend with four games against the Cardinals beginning tomorrow.
Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.
Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”
Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.
The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.