Recently, the MLB and MLBPA agreed on seven inning double headers once again for the 2021 season. How will the Phillies’ rotation fare during these games?
A couple of days ago, news broke that the MLB and MLBPA agreed on a new deal heading into the 2021 MLB season. Many of the rules will remain the same as 2020, except there will not be a universal DH this season. Along with this, 162 games will be scheduled. Whether they are played or not, that’s a later issue. COVID will more likely than not continue to cause more doubleheaders than baseball is used to. As much as we hope it’s not the case, we can imagine that the Phillies will likely be affected by this as well in one way or another.
The seven-inning doubleheaders are one of the many things staying the same. In 2020, the Phillies played eight sets of doubleheaders and did not fare too well in those games. Out of the 16 they played, they only won five of those games, getting outscored 71-80.
It’s also no secret that the 2020 Phillies’ bullpen was also absolutely putrid. When looking at these games, though, how many of these shortened games were actually at the fault of the starters?
First Set: August 5 vs. Yankees
Phillies get off to a good, but shortlived, start
The first of the eight doubleheader series in 2020 only took four games to happen. Shortly after the Marlins had COVID issues that delayed the Phillies’ games against them, Philadelphia had to host the almighty Yankees.
In game one, Zack Wheeler had a stellar game. The newest Phillie on the pitching staff pitched six innings, only allowing two earned runs. His efforts set up a Hector Neris save after the Phillies exploded to six runs in the sixth inning of their own. It may have also taken Austin Davis and Trevor Kelley to get the job done, but it got done nonetheless. Score one to the starters.
Game two is where things went downhill. The Phillies’ bats fell asleep, but so did their relievers on the mound apparently. Aaron Nola carried the Phillies with six innings of one-run work, recording 12 strikeouts. Tommy Hunter would come in and blow the game, allowing two runs and four hits in the five batters he faced. Score another one to the starters.
Second Set: Phillies host the Braves
August 9, 2020
Not many teams got much non-COVID forced rest in 2020, and the Phillies’ schedule fit right into that theme. They had their second doubleheader of the season only four days later when they hosted the Braves.
Vince Velasquez would take the mound to kick off the single-day series. And honestly, he didn’t even do that bad. Vinny Velo would hold his own for four of the seven innings, picking up six strikeouts while only allowing one run on three hits. The bullpen would then come in and allow five runs immediately after Vinny V was pulled. Give another one to the starters.
Soon after, the second game would follow a similar script. In his first career start, Spencer Howard allowed four earned runs in his 4.2 innings of work. That wasn’t the end of the torture either, as Trevor Kelley and Austin Davis combined for another four runs allowed themselves. One of Howard’s earned runs was sent home after Trevor Kelley allowed a double.
The fault can’t really be placed on either side in specific in this game, so we’ll call it a draw.
Third set: Phillies travel to… Buffalo?
August 20, 2020
In his second start in as many Phillies’ doubleheaders, Spencer Howard would redeem himself. After picking up his first career win against the Mets prior to this series, the rookie was cruising. He would only last 3.2 innings, but only allowed one run and five hits, striking out five. He was pulled after allowing a sacrifice fly allowing the Blue Jays that cut the Phillies’ lead to one. The bullpen, (surprise!) would come in and blow this one once again. Howard and the Phillies’ bats weren’t anything special, but had the win in their grasp until the final inning. Starters get another edge.
Vinny Velo started this game for Philadelphia, and inevitably the Phillies wound up getting swept. The seven runs they scored in the first inning weren’t enough. He’d go five innings, allowing four runs. The pain didn’t stop there, as the relievers allowed five more. I’ll call this one a draw.
Fourth set: Another split
September 8, 2020
The Phillies actually did a good thing in game one against the Red Sox here. Despite Zach Eflin allowing three runs on eight hits in five innings and the bullpen tacking on two of their own, the Phillies would walk this one off. This one is really credited to the Phillies’ bats, so we’ll call it a draw for the sake of optimism.
That optimism is short-lived. Vinny V found himself on the mound for yet another doubleheader but held his own once again. He’d only allow two runs in five innings of work, exiting the game at a 2-2 tie. The Phillies’ bullpen would end up blowing this one in a 5-2 loss. Another point to the starters.
Fifth Set: Another split
September 11, 2020
The Phillies finally got one of their aces back on the mound for a doubleheader. Aaron Nola would take the mound and do it beautifully. Nola would go the distance and earn the shutout. The Phillies’ bats also picked up 11 runs for comfort in case the bullpen had to come in. Edge: Starters.
Game two brought upon one of those classic bullpen games. Leave it to the Phillies to follow up a gem with something like this. The group of relievers would combine for five earned runs, with a pair coming late in the game. There wasn’t a starter here, but the relievers don’t deserve any credit either. Call it a draw.
Sixth Set: Marlins sweep the Phils
September 13, 2020
The notorious Sixto Sanchez would make his first start against his former MLB system since the JT Realmuto trade and make it count. Ramon Rosso would get the start for Philadelphia, and allow two runs in 2.1 innings of work. Those two runs were enough for the Marlins in their 2-1 victory. The bullpen did their job even though bats fell asleep, so edge to the relievers.
Game two would spell a worse story. Zach Eflin came in and allowed four runs in four innings, and then Ranger Suarez would allow four in the final two frames. The Phillies’ bats stayed asleep and they dropped this one 8-1. There isn’t much obvious fault on either side, so this one is a draw as well.
Seventh Set: A Phillies’ Sweep?!?
September 18, 2020
The Phillies got two of their five doubleheader wins in this series alone. Game one saw Zach Eflin bounce back. He’d go the distance and toss seven scoreless innings in the 7-0 victory. This is clearly an advantage for the starters.
Game two ended up being the complete opposite, but a win’s a win. The Phillies would go with the classic bullpen game. They may have allowed seven runs, but their bats carried the way. I’ll give the bullpen the benefit of the doubt here since there wasn’t a true starter.
Eighth Set: Phillies end the season on the wrong note
September 22, 2020
Look, the MLB season was long and strenuous. However, if the Phillies want to get over the hump, they had to win this series. So, in classic Phillies’ fashion, they lost both. Game one did have Aaron Nola on the mound. He went the distance, but not in the best of ways. He allowed five runs in the shutout loss. No relievers were used, but Nola didn’t have his best here. Call it a draw for the sake of fairness.
The final leg of all 2020 doubleheaders was yet another classic bullpen game. They allowed eight runs yet again and picked up the loss despite seven Phillies’ runs of their own. I’m blaming the bullpen here. Give the point to the starters.
Phillies’ Starters Are Fine
After looking at all of their doubleheaders in 2020, it’s clear that the starters were not the problem at all. The Phillies had just as many starters have complete game shutouts that the relievers got credit.
The point here isn’t that the relievers were bad- I’m not trying to state the obvious. The point is that the starters were stellar in seven game innings. One would think that they would have used their starters in more of their games, especially in crunch time of the season, but that was not the case.
In 2021, these doubleheaders are inevitable as long as COVID exists as prevalent as it does. 2020 was tough since each game was worth so much in the shortened schedule, but doubleheaders will be equally as important in 2021. I know managers do not want to “waste,” for lack of a better term, their top rotation guys for a double header. However, when you have a chance for your ace to get a complete game while only pitching a casual seven innings, they need to seize the opportunity.
With what looks to be a better bullpen with their recent additions, the Phillies aim to actually win these games. Look for Joe Girardi to utilize his starters more often than not in these games.
Photo Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire