Matt Moore: A big problem for the Phillies playoff run

Matt Moore, now with the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Matt Moore, now with the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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As August ended for the Philadelphia Phillies, the limping representatives of the City that Hates You Back scheduled a left-hander with a 6.12 ERA to face the champions of the last full MLB season, the Washington Nationals. Matt Moore would take the ball.

Well, OK, you have to pick your spots for a no. 5 pitcher in late August. After all, the disappointing and disappointed Nats were sending out an over-priced pitcher, Patrick Corbin, who also sported a 6-plus ERA.

Phillies fans held their breath Aug. 31. Their starter was Matt Moore.

The weatherman said that the remnants of Hurricane Ida probably wouldn’t reach DC by game time Tuesday, but who really knew?

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The rain did hold off (mostly), and the Phillies won, 12-6. Moore, to put it diplomatically, did less well than his teammates.

So, when the evening began, the Phillies were 3½ games behind first-place Atlanta, and three games behind in the race for the second Wild Card. They gained a game in the first race and half a game in the second. However, despite the outcome, a question remains for September: Can the Phillies make the playoffs, or even post a winning season, with Matt Moore in the rotation?

This is a difficult piece to write without being unkind to Moore, who obviously deserves credit for spending a year in Japan, the place where MLB players typically go to “reinvent” themselves, then returning to the US to claim a spot on an MLB roster. He pitched well for Fukuoka last season, posting an overall 1.118 WHIP and a winning record.

But Tuesday’s game against Washington was typical of the left-hander’s season thus far. He lasted only 3.1 innings and gave up five earned runs, surrendering three doubles in one inning and a 2-run homer in another. His pitches were consistently sailing too far down and in to right-handed hitters, down and away to lefties. He failed to get down a sacrifice bunt.

Moore has made one quality start this season resulting in a win, and has only lasted five or more innings in four of his 21 appearances. Three of those games were team wins, but two were credited to others. His won-lost record at this point is 2-4, and manager Joe Girardi rarely shows faith enough to allow him the innings needed for a decision.

However, it’s not as if there’s another Phillies pitcher in the bullpen like Ranger Suarez, a starter in the minors who had been an effective reliever, and when finally pressed into service as an MLB starter, pitched well.

MLB rosters expand on Sept. 1, and the argument that continuing to use Moore is prudent since he’s an experienced MLB pitcher and the Phillies are battling for a playoff spot becomes less convincing.

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Could a parade of relievers every fifth day really be any worse? Could Triple-A alternative David Paulino be worse at least once? After all, Matt Moore is largely being used as an opener anyway. Why not just pick his spots in a given game a little more carefully?