The Philadelphia Phillies have had some success this season from their starting pitchers, but it hasn’t come from the usual suspects. In fact, the triumvirate of greatness, the “Big Three” who finished first, second and fifth in NL Cy Young voting just two seasons ago, have struggled this season, bringing the team down with them.
Cole Hamels, who was awarded with a major payday that would keep him in red and white pinstripes through 2018, entered the season as the Opening Day starter and top ace of the staff. He earned the job off of the heels of a phenomenal spring, and one in which many thought he could build off of in the 2013 season.
Unfortunately, in his first ever career Opening Day start, Hamels was bothered by nerves. He lasted just five innings and gave up five earned runs, three of which came via the long ball, something Hamels has been susceptible to over the course of his career.
While it did appear this start was a fluke, Hamels gave up eight with four walks in his next start.
Since these first two starts, however, Hamels has improved vastly. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last five starts and hasn’t given up more than three runs in each of these starts as well. He did have a game in which he walked six, but for the most part, Hamels has for yet another season, been victim to the Phillies offense and their lack of run support.
But Hamels isn’t the only one of the top aces who has struggled. Both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have had their moments as well.
Halladay’s struggles have been well documented this season as age and logged innings seem to be catching up to him. With the exception of three very good starts in the middle of his season, Halladay has given up at least five runs in all of his remaining starts. He has given up nine home runs and has a staggering ERA of 8.65. Halladay also doesn’t have a single game in which he has walked zero and has just one game in which he has walked one.
Continuing down the line, Lee too has had his ups and downs in 2013.
He started the season near perfect and in the way many had expected. But since his first three starts, Lee too has trailed off, giving up five, three and four earned runs in each of his last three starts. He has walked seven in his last four starts and over the season, his strikeouts have been down across the board.
So with Hamels, Halladay and Lee all failing to find some point of consistency it is a wonder how the Phillies are just five games out of first and aren’t languishing at the bottom of the NL East cellar. A wonder, is a combination of production the Phillies have gotten from the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the rotation.
While John Lannan didn’t record a win in his first two starts, he pitched well enough for the Phillies to win both of them. His replacement, Jonathan Pettibone, has won each of his last two starts, has struck out 13, walked just two and has yet to give up more than three home runs in each of his three starts, all of which the Phillies have won.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the Phillies being able to keep their head above water is Kyle Kendrick, who has been the best pitcher for the team in 2013.
Kendrick has pitched two shutouts, including one complete game. In those two games, he has given up a total of just five hits. Just once this season, his first start, has Kendrick given up more than two runs. He has struck out 29, walked 10 and has a team-low ERA of 2.43. He has done everything the Phillies have needed from him this season as the team is 4-2 in his starts.
But despite Hamels, Halladay and Lee’s struggles, Kendrick and Pettibone have been keeping this team afloat. Neither are legitimate aces, however, so it is a wonder, how much longer these two can sustain and carry the Phillies.