Prior to the trade deadline, Phillies fans across the country all had one thing at the top of their wish lists: pitching. Whether it was relief pitching to help a struggling bullpen, or adding a starter to add some stability to the end of the rotation, Philly knew pitching was the answer. Dave Dombrowski answered the prayers of the fans and delivered two birds (pitchers) with one stone (trade).
With so many rumors floating around about Twins and Cubs players, the Phillies surprised fans by acquiring Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy from the Texas Rangers. With all of the struggles the back of the rotation has had, compounded by Aaron Nola’s struggles and Zach Eflin’s injury, Gibson has been a constant. A gift under the proverbial Christmas in July Tree, and a much needed addition.
Gibson has more than met expectations so far. Outside of one stumble when he appeared in relief after an expected rain delay, Gibson has pitched to the tune of a 2.36 ERA across his four starts. His latest being a dominant 8 IP, 1 R performance to lock up the series victory in San Diego against the Padres. At one point in the game, he retired 14 batters in a row. “That was probably as locked as I’ve felt in a start since before the All-Star break,” Gibson said.
“He’s been great,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s thrown the ball extremely well. He’s a complete pitcher. He holds runners, he handles his position, he’s been handling the bat.”
Suddenly, the Phillies went from trying to stabilize the back end of the rotation, to having one of the better trios at the top of the rotation (as long as Nola pitches like he did this weekend). Him adding stability has allowed the Phillies to take their time bringing back Eflin and continue the experiment to stretch Ranger Suarez back into a starter mid-season. Gibson seems to be energized by being in a playoff chase, and has already gelled very well with battery mate J.T. Realmuto.
“All day, J.T. and I were on the same page,” Gibson said. “We had a really good plan… I worked in the bullpen this week on setting my sights a little bit different with my eyes and keeping my head on the target a little bit. It was a combination of defense playing really good, offense getting us the lead, and J.T. being spot on with every finger he threw down.”
On the other side of the trade to acquire Gibby, the Phillies sent top prospect turned reliever turned starter turned reliever turned… you get the picture… Spencer Howard to the Rangers. He struggled during his time with the Phillies (5.72 ERA in 11 appearances, 7 starts) and it has not gotten any better in Texas. In 3 starts, he has lasted a total of 7.1 IP and given up eight earned runs (9.82 ERA). Howard may figure it out at the major league level, but so far this looks like a plus for a playoff hopeful team in Philadelphia.
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