Phillies fans have been clamoring for Matt Klentak to add a difference-making starting pitcher before the trade deadline.
Maybe he already has.
Obviously, it’s too early to tell if Drew Smyly can be that long-term contributor that helps the Phillies break their seven-year playoff drought, but after two starts he’s been pretty darn good.
The left-hander pitched seven shutout innings to backbone a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in front of 32,217 at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. In two starts with the Phillies, the Texas Rangers castoff and Milwaukee Brewers escapee has pitched 13 innings of one-run ball to lead a pair of victories.
Is Smyly the guy Phillies fans have been clamoring for?
“They can acquire all the good pitching they want,” Smyly said after the win. “We're trying to win championships. It's not about me. It's about just winning. The more the merrier.”
The trade deadline arrives Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Phils are entrenched in a crowded wild-card race. Will the deadline bring more help, the kind that Smyly has provided so far?
Manager Gabe Kapler said he hasn’t “thought about it one time.”
Rhys Hoskins has thought about it.
“Look, I think whatever is going to happen has nothing to do with what I think is going to happen or what I would like to happen or wouldn’t like to happen,” he said. “We think we have a lot of talent in here. We haven’t played to our ability yet, but the talent is still there. If we get help, we get help. If we don’t get help, we’re still pretty confident. We feel pretty poised to go on a run here.”
The Phils have won two in a row, one over Atlanta and one over the Giants, to improve to six games over .500 with 56 games to play.
“It just feels a little bit different after these couple wins,” Hoskins said. “It just seems like things are starting to click a little bit.”
Hoskins has clicked with important home runs in two straight games. His two-run shot in the fifth inning gave the Phils a 4-0 lead in this one. The home run was the 75th of Hoskins’ career and it came in his 308th game. The only Phillies to do that faster were former MVP Ryan Howard (240 games) and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (278).
On Friday night, the Phillies will hand the ball to veteran lefty Jason Vargas, who was acquired from the Mets on Monday. The Phillies hope Vargas can make the same impact that Smyly has. Smyly held the Giants to four hits, all singles, and struck out five.
“He had a great tempo and just kept those guys off balance all day, got a lot of weak contact,” Hoskins said. “It seems like in the two starts that I’ve seen he obviously has a very good knack for doing that. If he can continue to do that we think we’ve got a pretty good shot to win with him on the mound.”
Smyly was released by Texas in June after recording an ERA of 8.43. He hooked on with Milwaukee’s Triple A club then exercised an opt-out in his contract earlier this month when the Phillies dangled a chance to start in front of him. With the Phils, Smyly is using a little different approach, attacking hitters more with his cutter and sequencing his pitches differently.
“I think I was just a little too much predictable in Texas and I wasn't throwing strikes is the main thing,” Smyly said. “I was getting behind a lot of guys and not limiting damage. Now, I feel like I'm able to get ahead, I'm able to keep the hitters guessing, and it's making all my pitchers better.
“I feel like a whole new pitcher out there. I said that before I signed here and I continue to say that. I wasn't good in Texas.”
Smyly missed 2017 and 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“He's had a lot of adversity of the last two calendar years,” Kapler said. “He's been kicked and he's been down. He's been in the minor leagues and he's battled back. He's given us two really strong starts, exactly what we needed at just the right time.”
Indeed. He’s been a pretty good pickup at a time of the season when teams can get a lift from one acquisition.
“It's definitely nice to show all the guys in the locker room and say, 'I can help this team out,' “ Smyly said. “Hopefully we can all get on a roll together and start winning games down the stretch. But it's definitely the way you want to start off, that's for sure.”
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