The 1997 action film “Con Air” features Nicolas Cage as a just-freed, wrongly imprisoned man catching a flight home with a group of seasoned prisoners who hijack the plane, and John Cusack, a federal marshal trying to return order to things. There’s a scene inside an abandoned airport hangar with the two men staring each other down, guns drawn.
Cusack wants to know, if he lowers his weapon, will Cage lower his. Cage replies, “Sorry, boss, but there’s only two men I trust. One of them’s me, the other’s not you.”
That brings us to the Phillies’ pitching staff. Right now, there’s two men I trust — starter Zack Wheeler and right-handed reliever Jeff Hoffman. The rest of the staff has struggled quite a bit over the last two weeks, and it’s led to some uneven play in September. So far this month, the Phils are just 5-6.
On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, we discussed our current level of trust with the pitching staff, and one thing was made clear. Phillies pitchers are going through it right now.
On a scale of 1-10, here’s my trust level of everyone on the roster, from most to least trustworthy.
Zack Wheeler: 9.5
He’s throwing as well as ever has been mostly dominant every time out. A true ace and Cy Young contender.
Christopher Sanchez: 6.5
Maybe this is a bit low for a guy who has a 3.26 ERA in 15 games this year, but he’s reached a career high in innings and he’s inexperienced. Does he get a postseason start over the starters below?
Ranger Suarez: 5.5
He took a no-hitter into the 7th inning on Sunday against the Marlins, but has been up and down in 2023.
Aaron Nola: 3.5
Yes, he can have a game where he retires 21 of 22 batters, as he did against the Cardinals two weeks ago, but his blowup innings remain frequent and infuriating.
Taijuan Walker: 3.5
Walker has allowed 19 runs over his last 26 innings, not the kind of guy you want starting Game 3 of a playoff series.
Michael Lorenzen: 3
Since his no-hitter, Lorenzen has a 7.96 ERA in five starts. Monday’s outing against the Braves, in which he gave up four runs in five innings, was likely his last.
The bullpen has been even less steady, if that’s even possible. In the first game of Monday’s doubleheader, Bryce Harper once again found a way to hit a 9th inning, game-tying home run to breathe new life into a Phils team that appeared destined for a loss, only to have a reliever blow it the very next inning. This time, it was Jose Alvarado allowing two 10th inning runs in the 10-8 loss.
This was the third time in the last two weeks Harper has hit a game-tying or go-ahead homer in the 8th inning or later, only for the team to lose. How many of these hero moments are these guys going to waste?
Jeff Hoffman: 8.5
He’s been the most consistent and dominant reliever in the bullpen over the last two weeks because he does stuff like this.
Craig Kimbrel: 8
If he’s not being overworked, he’s fine. He looked good closing out last night’s win over Atlanta, but blew a few saves over the last few weeks, too.
Jose Alvarado: 6.5
Alvarado still throws 100 mph, but he’s struggled to locate his cut fastball, a dangerous weapon against right-handers when it’s on, but a meatball when he leaves it over the middle of the plate.
Dylan Covey: 4.5
Dare I say, Dylan Covey has pitched… well… of late? 1.50 ERA in four appearances this month, including two shutout innings in Game 1 of the doubleheader against Atlanta.
Gregory Soto: 4
If Soto is throwing strikes, he’s unhittable. But it seems Greg likes to alternate dominating and disastrous appearances.
Matt Strahm: 4
He was an important arm in the first month of the season, but has largely been meh since then. Too many times behind in the count, too many homers allowed in big spots, too many walks.
Seranthony Dominguez: 3.5
It’s been a rough season for Dominguez, who still throws hard, but has a 7.71 ERA in September. He struggled last September, too, was removed from the closer’s role down the stretch, then rebounded to have a phenomenal October, so hope springs eternal.
Andrew Bellatti: 1.5
Send him back to AAA.
Starting Tuesday, the Phillies plan to go back to a five-man rotation, with Lorenzen likely heading to the bullpen to piggy-back starts with Sanchez until the playoffs roll around. At that point, another one of the five starters will join Lorenzen in the ‘pen.
It should be noted that last year, the Phils’ bullpen struggled mightily in September, only to turn it around and become a strength in the playoffs.
But right now, there’s only two men I trust. And for the rest of the staff, that ain’t you.