John Middleton probably doesn’t need any additional reasons to pull his hair right now. Watching his baseball team give outs on the field while hitting at an alarming rate surely soured the Phillies general manager’s mood enough.
Still, that must make the man in charge of the money even crazier when he watches his team get beaten over and over again by ball clubs that don’t pay as much for their player services.
We all know of the Phillies’ struggles against the Miami Marlins over the past two seasons. Even after splitting four games with Miami at the start of that nine-game road trip, the Phillies were still just 3-4 against the team with the fourth lowest payroll in baseball this season. And let’s not forget they went 3-7 against Miami a year ago, helping the Marlins qualify for the first time in 17 years.
Luckily for the Phillies, they don’t have to face the other Florida major league team nearly as often as the Marlins, because the Tampa Bay Rays have mastered the art of doing more with less.
If former Oakland general manager Billy Beane was the mastermind behind Moneyball, then longtime Tampa Bay president Matt Silverman is also expected to be in line for a movie. They could call her Lack of Money Ball: How to Consistently Win with One of Baseball’s Lowest Payrolls.
The Rays, who reached the World Series a year ago which was never achieved by the Beane A teams, completed a two-game sweep of the Phillies with a 6-2 win on Sunday afternoon. at Tropicana Field.
It’s five straight wins for the Rays over the Phillies as well as their 15th win in their last 16 games this season. The Phillies, of course, only needed to win one game a year ago at Tropicana Field to qualify for the playoffs, but couldn’t make it last weekend even though the Rays had already locked the best record in the American League.
“They are doing a really good job,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to give their front office and [manager] Kevin Cash has a lot of credit. The guys they bring in, they find roles for them. I think they look for a lot of outliers and use them where they can be successful. “
The Rays, for the record, had the third lowest payroll in baseball last year and the fifth lowest payroll this year. Their total payroll of $ 63.1 million is less than what the Phillies are paying the trio of Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto and Zack Wheeler this season. The Phillies’ total payroll of $ 183.6 million is the fifth largest in baseball.
If those numbers don’t drive Middleton mad, then what he saw again on the pitch on Sunday should have. The Phillies, who have lost 10 of their last 14 games to fall three games under 0.500 for the first time this season, gave up two runs in the second inning and another in the seventh.
The inning began with a walk from Zach Eflin to Austin Meadows, but only after third baseman Alec Bohm threw a foul pop he should have caught for the first outing of the inning. With two strikeouts in the set, Mike Zunino hit a home run to make it 2-0.
The score fell to 3-0 in the fifth when Eflin, who went 1-4 with a 4.59 ERA in six starts in May, gave Brett Phillips a two-strike homerun. The Rays took a 4-0 lead over Ji-Man Choi’s brace on the right-field wall against reliever Ranger Suárez. A missed cutoff and a pitching error from right fielder Brad Miller contributed to a two-run inning for the Rays in the seventh after Girardi’s decision to replace reliever Connor Brogdon with Archie Bradley backfired.
Offensively, the Phillies had just two runs on 10 hits on six Tampa Bay pitchers. Respecting the Rays’ more unconventional ways, Cash used starter / opener Collin McHugh for just two outs in the first inning before getting 8 1/3 solid innings from his field, starting with 4 2/3. innings of left-hander Josh Fleming, a 2017 fifth-round pick from Division III Webster University in St. Louis.
When asked if he would consider setting up his pitching team the same way the Rays did on Sunday, Girardi replied “of course I would,” but he thinks right now the Phillies “have pretty conventional starters.
And maybe not enough good relievers to make the Tampa Bay Path work for them.