Phillies pitchers off to historically awful start

Phillies pitchers off to historically awful start

April 8, 2013, 9:00 am
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Their two-time Cy Young Award winner has a 13.50 ERA. Their three-time All-Star has a 10.97 ERA. Their bullpen has allowed 10 of the last 11 runners it inherited to score. More than half their pitchers have ERAs of 7.94 or higher. They’ve allowed more runs through six games than any Phillies team in 82 years.

The Phillies’ pitching has been brutal so far.

Yes, it’s only six games. Yes, there are 156 games to go. Yes, things should get better (see story).

Still, the Phillies have the worst ERA in the majors a week into the 2013 season, and that’s not how they wanted to start.

The Phils are 2-4 and three games behind the 5-1 Braves in the N.L. East with a three-game series against the 4-2 Mets at Citizens Bank scheduled to start Monday evening.

After Sunday’s 9-8 loss to the Royals, the Phillies’ team ERA rose to 7.10, the worst in baseball (see story).

Their starters have a 6.75 ERA, also worst in the majors so far, and their relievers have a 7.79 ERA – second-worst in baseball behind the Marlins’ 8.10 mark.

The Phillies have allowed 41 earned runs in their first six games, the most they’ve given up after six games since the 1931 team – with Sheriff Blake, Jumbo Elliott and Phil Collins on the hill – gave up 44 in its first six games.

Cliff Lee was brilliant in his first start, eight innings of two-hit shutout ball, and John Lannan wasn’t bad – three runs, five hits in seven innings – but everybody else has been awful.

“That’s how seasons go sometimes,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “It goes that way sometimes. But we’ll be all right. We played six ballgames, and we haven’t put a solid game together yet.”

The Phillies have already allowed seven or more earned runs three times, the first time that’s happened within the first six games of the season since 1986.

The bullpen? It’s allowed 33 baserunners in 17 1/3 innings – 22 hits and 11 walks. Opposing teams are hitting .319 against the Phils’ pen, second-worst in baseball (teams are hitting .344 against the Yankees’ pen).

Of the 11 baserunners the Phils’ bullpen has inherited, 10 have scored. That’s 91 percent.

Mike Adams, Phillippe Aumont and Antonio Bastardo have each thrown two scoreless innings, but Jonathan Papelbon, Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes have allowed a combined 20 hits and 15 earned runs in just 11 1/3 innings.

Durbin, who spent 2008 through 2010 with the Phils, had a solid year with Atlanta last year (4-1, 3.10) but has been particularly dreadful in the early going this year.

Durbin entered the opener in Atlanta in the sixth with the Braves leading 4-3 and gave up two runs without retiring a batter, then gave up a three-run triple to Chris Getz in the first game of the K.C. series, then allowed a two-run single to Billy Butler as soon as he replaced Hamels on Sunday.

After the game Sunday, Manuel said he just doesn’t have any options other than using Durbin.

“That is his spot,” he said. “That’s kind of his spot. We’re down by two runs at the time, and that’s his spot.”

You don’t want to get too carried away, not six games into the season. But it’s impossible not to be concerned with the 35-year-old Halladay, who was just as ineffective during spring training as in his first start of the year. And Hamels has already had two games this year worse than any of his starts last year.

Without consistency from Halladay and Hamels, it’s going to be difficult for the Phillies to contend.

“All of us are true competitors,” Hamels said. “We’ve all had success in the big leagues, and we all expect to have success, so I think we just have to bear down and just go out there and do what we know we’re capable of doing.

“We can’t stress about the results as much as what people want us to stress about. But we have to be confident in what we can do and go out there and execute and things will definitely take care of itself.”

For the record, the 2008 and 2009 Phillies pitchers also got off to slow starts, and both teams reached the World Series.

The 2008 staff had a 5.23 ERA after six games, the 2009 Phils a 6.45 ERA.

Last year’s 1.99 mark after six games was the Phils’ lowest in franchise history, and the Phils missed the postseason for the first time since 2006.

So it’s not panic time yet. But a solid start from Halladay on Monday would sure make Manuel breathe a little bit easier.

“We just gotta play,” Manuel said. “We’re pitching who we have. That’s who we have right now. That’s where we’re at. We’ll see.”