In the high-stakes world of Major League Baseball, where every game matters, Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Michael Lorenzen is feeling the pressure to return to form. With just 11 games left in the season, Lorenzen knows he must step up his game.
“I don’t like not being good,” Lorenzen admitted after the Phillies’ recent 9-3 loss to the Braves, which tightened their grip on the top National League Wild Card spot but highlighted Lorenzen’s struggles. “It’s not something I do well with.”
The Phillies had a clear plan for the game: Cristopher Sánchez would start and pitch through the Braves’ lineup twice, setting up Lorenzen to take over. The intention was to transition Lorenzen from a starter to a reliever.
Sánchez performed admirably, allowing three runs in four innings, keeping the Phillies in contention. However, when Lorenzen took the mound, things took a turn for the worse. He allowed four runs in just one-third of an inning, failing to retire a batter until he threw his 37th and final pitch. This unusual occurrence marked a challenging night for Lorenzen and the Phillies, turning a 3-0 deficit into a daunting 7-0 hole.
Lorenzen’s recent struggles are a cause for concern, as he holds a daunting 9.23 ERA in six appearances since his remarkable no-hitter against the Nationals on August 9. Over this stretch, he has surrendered 40 hits, 30 runs (27 earned), and 14 walks while striking out only 14.
However, Lorenzen remains resilient, acknowledging that he has weathered even more challenging stretches earlier in his career. As a rookie with the Cincinnati Reds in 2015, he endured a rough period with a 12.00 ERA over six starts. Such experiences have taught him to persevere through the highs and lows of professional baseball.
But the Phillies’ situation is unique; they are pursuing a World Series victory, and Lorenzen’s performance is pivotal to their success. When the Phillies acquired him in an August 1 trade with the Detroit Tigers, they valued his versatility, as he could serve as both a starter and reliever. In light of his struggles, they might be envisioning a role similar to Zach Eflin’s transition last year. Eflin moved from the rotation to the bullpen, delivering crucial innings in September and the postseason.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson remains optimistic about Lorenzen’s potential. “He’s a veteran,” Thomson emphasized. “And I think getting him used to coming out of the bullpen might take an outing or two. But I think it’s in there.”
As the Phillies prepare for their remaining games, including a crucial Wild Card race, the question remains: Will Lorenzen find his groove in the bullpen, or is the piggyback start strategy a thing of the past?
“We’ll see,” Thomson stated. “We haven’t really discussed it, but Michael is open to anything. He’s a great team player. I’ve got to talk to [pitching coach Caleb Cotham] and figure it out.”
For Lorenzen and the Phillies, the clock is ticking as they chase their postseason dreams. In the unpredictable world of baseball, all eyes are on Lorenzen’s journey to reclaim his top form.