More Sports:

August 27, 2016

Hellickson bounced early as Mets homer their way past Phillies

NEW YORK – Heading into the weekend, the good folks at compiled a list of the 20 players who could be on the move before the end of the month through waiver trades.

Among the trio of Phillies players on that list of candidates was the man who took the mound on Saturday night against the New York Mets, a player nearly everyone thought was on the way to a new team this time last month. Jeremy Hellickson did not go anywhere before July 31, because as general manager Matt Klentak explained it, the offers that were coming in were not representative of the value he felt the veteran pitcher should have on the market.

The Phillies felt better about the idea of offering the soon-to-be free agent a qualifying offer, and should he leave as a free agent this winter, recouping the compensation draft pick as a result.

But, there is still at least a possibility that Klentak could reevaluate Hellickson’s value by placing him on waivers before the end of August. A contending team could have a greater need for pitching than they did a month ago, and they’d need to acquire Hellickson before September 1 in order for him to be eligible for a postseason roster.

Hellickson, however, did not look like a pitcher who anyone would feel great sending into a playoff start on Saturday night. The 29-year-old pitched through trouble throughout his abbreviated start, and served up a pair of booming home runs in the Phillies 12-1 loss to the Mets.

"Tonight," manager Pete Mackanin said, "was embarrassing." 

Asdrubal Cabrera (three home runs in the last two nights) and Yoenis Cespedes each homered off of Hellickson. Kelly Johnson (pinch-hit grand slam off Michael Mariot) and Neil Walker hit long balls off Phillies relievers.

No matter who was on the mound, the Mets were hitting home runs en route to their second straight rout over the Phils.

"They are an aggressive lineup," Hellickson said of the Mets, who have hit 50 home runs in their last 30 games at Citi Field. "They are hot right now. They are not missing too many mistakes and they are grinding out at-bats and making us work. 

"That was the biggest thing tonight. When I did get ahead, I couldn’t put them away. Then I fell behind and had three walks in four innings. That can’t happen. Just one of those nights when I didn’t have much."

The loss was the fourth in the last five games for the Phillies, and their seventh in the last 10 games. The Phils have been outscored 65-16 in those seven losses.

Sure, the Phillies have struggled to score runs all season. But since the All-Star break, their starting pitching has been just as dreadful.

Following Hellickson’s second-shortest start of the season (he allowed five runs in four innings), the Phillies rotation has a 5.57 ERA since the All-Star break.

To put that number into better perspective: before last year’s All-Star break, when the magnificent seven of Jerome Williams, Sean O’Sullivan, Severino Gonzalez, David Buchanan, Kevin Correia, Chad Billingsley, and Phillippe Aumont combined for 48 starts, the rotation had a 5.44 ERA. And that was a team that was well on its way to flirting with 100 losses before July rolled around.

The current Phillies (59-70) will not flirt with 100 losses in 2016. But if their pitching keeps up its current pace, they should be able to secure a top-five pick in next June’s amateur draft for the second straight season.

The Phils rotation has a 7.26 ERA in 22 games this month. But, as Saturday night’s game showed, when the Mets kept on scoring after Hellickson left and the unreliable, ever-changing middle relievers entered, the pitching staff as a whole has been an unmitigated disaster in August.

When the Mets latest scoring spree was over, capped by Walker's eighth-inning home run, the eighth home run by a Mets player off a Phillies pitcher in the last two nights, the Phils pitching staff left the game with a 6.23 ERA this month.

They have served up 50 home runs in 22 games in August.

"The funny thing about it is we are 11-and-11 in the month of August," Mackanin said. "So it's hard to figure out."

But the way the pitching is trending, is Mackanin worried whether he has enough healthy and competent pitching to get through the final 33 games on the Phillies schedule, including eight more against the Mets?

"Yeah, I'm concerned about it with the injuries we've had to the starters," Mackanin said. "From what we've seen over the last couple of weeks it hasn't been the same as it was the first four months of the season. We've just got to regroup and put these two games behind us. 

"The Mets seem to know what's coming. They just seem to feast on our pitching. And we've just got to regroup.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21