PITTSBURGH – Roy Halladay isn’t coming back for six more weeks at the earliest. Carlos Zambrano is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Tyler Cloyd has a 7.79 ERA at Lehigh Valley.
And then John Lannan pitches like this, and you can’t help but wonder what options the Phillies have.
"We need five starters, and he's one of them,” Charlie Manuel said in a somewhat less than ringing endorsement of the veteran right-hander. “I'm trying to think who we have who's better than him."
Lannan was hit hard for the third time in his last five starts Tuesday night, allowing 14 base runners -- 11 hits, three walks -- in just five innings in the Phillies’ 6-5 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).
“I thought he was in trouble most every inning,” Manuel said. “They left nine guys on base [while he was in the game] and got 11 hits on him. That just shows you how many base runners they had.”
The big blow was Pedro Alvarez’s three-run bomb far over the wall in right-center in the fifth, his 21st homer of the season.
“If I make a different pitch to Alvarez, it’s a different ball game,” Lannan said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
But Lannan was hit hard all night. The 11 hits are the most he’s allowed in a game since June 27, 2011, with the Nationals, and they matched the most he’s allowed since 2008.
The last Phillie to allow 14 base runners in five or fewer innings was Joe Blanton against the Red Sox in 2010.
Not good company.
“He was trying to battle and keep us in the game,” Manuel said.
Lannan is now 1-3 in seven starts this year with an unsightly 5.15 ERA.
In his last five starts, he’s given up 17 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings -- a 6.46 ERA. And that’s with a seven-inning, one-run effort Friday in the Phillies’ 16-1 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Asked about his inconsistency, Lannan shrugged it off.
“I felt good today,” he said. “When you give up hits like that, you just have to keep on going. Felt good coming into it from the Dodgers start. Just giving up hits. That’s it.”
The Pirates stranded two in the first, three in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and one in the fifth while Lannan was in the game.
“You have to keep going out there and making pitches,” Lannan said. “Up until [the Alvarez homer], I was able to battle through it. I left a ball up to Alvarez and you pay for it.”
What options do the Phillies have if they’ve had enough of Lannan, who was 42-52 in six years with the Nationals and has never won more than 10 games in a season?
The best option might be Ethan Martin, the 24-year-old right-hander who’s 9-3 with a 4.57 ERA at Lehigh Valley but has walked 52 batters in 86 2/3 innings.
But it’s clear that the Phillies, now 40-45 and 8½ back in the wild-card standings, can’t afford to keep running Lannan out there every fifth day too much longer if things don’t change.
Asked about Lannan’s lack of consistency, Manuel answered in general terms about the entire team’s lack of consistency.
“We talk about that all the time,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been all season. That’s how we play. It is kind of what our team so far has been. That’s why we can’t put a winning streak together, and we have a hard time staying above .500 and stuff like that.”
Lannan also hurt the Phillies by failing to score from first on a two-out double by Chase Utley in the third.
“I’m pretty slow,” Lannan said. “I don’t know what else to say. I got thrown out.”
The Phillies actually had a decent night at the plate, with 11 hits and five runs, two on Domonic Brown’s 22nd homer with two outs in the top of the ninth off National League save leader Jason Grilli.
“Just looking for a ball up to drive, that’s it,” Brown said. “I knew I took a good swing at it. Tough loss. Kind of frustrating.”
The bullpen once again failed the Phils, with Phillippe Aumont allowing two runs in the sixth after the Phillies had closed to within one run at 4-3 in the top of the inning.
The big blow was Andrew McCutchen’s triple, one of five times the brilliant 26-year-old outfielder reached base.
“I left a couple of pitches over the plate -- the sinker wasn’t running enough, especially on McCutchen,” Aumont said. “It was just a battle, trying to keep it up. It was one of those situations where I was battling and just tired from the start. The heat got to me a little bit.
“It was one of those nights where I was in my own way. I didn’t make the quality pitches I need to make. It was a tough night.”