“Outclassed”. It might be the worst description for a loss – it’s the one word a fan never wants to hear. To be “outclassed” is to be outplayed in every aspect of the game.
It’s to lose in such a way that your team shouldn’t even be on the field with the victor, for they are just better in every way possible. 

It’s fortunate for baseball fans around the Delaware Valley that the Phillies are almost never outclassed. In fact, they are one of the “classiest” teams in baseball, with a roster so deep it’d make an oil baron shiver with excitement. However, the well may not be quite as deep as it may seem – there are cracks in the foundation, so to speak.

Last week, my colleague Ean Sullivan voiced his concerns about the bullpen’s recent struggles.

Indeed, the ‘pen has been the bane of the team’s existence – in the last 10 games, four have been lost due to late-inning implosions. Seranthony Dominguez continues to be more unreliable than 1995 Land Rover, with a 4.25 ERA, four losses, and seven blown saves on the season.

His back-end teammates, Gregory Soto, and Jose Alvarado, have also struggled as of late – Soto has allowed nine runs in his last nine and a third innings, and Alvarado has walked six in just over seven innings since returning from the IL. 

However, the excruciating ineptitude of the bullpen’s recent performance isn’t the only concern regarding the Phillies’ pitching staff.

Over the past few weeks, the starting pitching has been, as the kids say, mid.

Sure, Zack Wheeler continues to be good – not great – with flashes of brilliance over his last few starts. And Ranger Suarez pitched a gem of a game yesterday. Whatever. For the most part, Suarez and the rest of the staff, with Aaron Nola, Taijuan Walker, Michael Lorenzen, and Cristopher Sanchez, have been nothing short of subpar.

As of Monday, Nola is sitting at a 12-9 record with a 4.64 ERA. Walker isn’t much better, with a 4.15 ERA overall and a 4.76 ERA in August.

Is that not enough?

Check the game logs of Nola, Walker, and Lorenzen.

In his last two starts, Nola has given up four earned runs and seven earned runs, respectively. Today, Walker gave up five earned runs and four in his last start. Lorenzen has been the worst of all of them, giving up 19 earned runs in his last four starts since his spectacular no-hitter. 

The point is that despite the two “juggernauts” at the top of the rotation, the Phillies by no means possess an elite or even above-average starting rotation.

While Wheeler and Nola have the talent and proven capability to be one of, if not the best, one-two punch in baseball, the truth is they’ve both fallen well short of that. This team is designed to win through its prodigious offense and shut-down bullpen. When the ‘pen scuffles, the light shines even brighter on the roster’s one dark spot – a middling starting rotation.

If the Phillies want to be playing baseball late into October, then the rotation needs to pick it up just as much as the bullpen does.

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