Phillies

Braves 15, Phillies 7: Phillies have major work to do to reach Braves' level

Braves 15, Phillies 7: Phillies have major work to do to reach Braves' level

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What even was that?

In a series they needed to win to have a realistic chance of catching the Braves in the division, the Phillies have failed to show up two nights in a row. After losing 9-2 on Friday, Saturday night was somehow even worse.

The Phillies found themselves down by 10 runs through three innings and lost 15-7 in front of a near-sellout crowd.

It was a truly pathetic performance in all phases. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin allowed 10 runs, six earned, and failed to make it out of the third inning.

Offensively, the Phillies were no match for even a depleted Braves lineup missing Nick Markakis, Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley. The Phils scored six of their seven runs after they had already fallen behind by 13.

And defensively, the Phillies gifted the Braves as many as six runs in their seven-run third inning. Catcher Tyler Flowers hit a double-play ball to Jean Segura, who flubbed the underhand throw to second base. Instead of getting two outs on the play, the Phillies got none. The next batter, Ender Inciarte, hit a ground ball to first base that Rhys Hoskins dove too early to reach, resulting in an infield single.

The Braves have outscored the Phillies 60-20 over their last six meetings. That is an average score of 10-3 per game. 

The Phillies are 54-50 and can finish the series no better than 6½ games back in the NL East.

What now with Eflin?

The Phillies have so few legitimate options in the starting rotation that they're having Jake Arrieta pitch through a painful bone spur in his right elbow. So even with Eflin's horrid recent performance, his rotation spot probably is not in jeopardy.

Eflin has allowed 32 runs in his last 26⅔ innings. His ERA over that span has ballooned from 2.83 to 4.63. That is no easy task this far into the season.

The Phillies need 80 percent of a starting rotation. They have Aaron Nola and four coin-flips, and even that feels generous to write.

It's just not possible to land three or four decent starting pitchers and two good relievers at the trade deadline without parting with promising young players. Thus, buying big at the trade deadline makes little sense at this point for the Phils.

Ominous injury update

There was a belief that David Robertson, who had been facing hitters in Florida, could soon begin a rehab assignment. But as of now, that plan appears to be tabled.

"He is progressing, just still not progressing as fast as we all had hoped he would," Gabe Kapler said prior to Saturday's game.

What does it mean? Hard to say as of now. The word setback was not used, but it's fair to wonder whether the Phillies will actually see Robertson return in August.

What a disastrous year it's been for the Phillies' bullpen — long-term injuries to five of their top six relievers in Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano.

'70s night

The best part of the night was the music. The Phillies wore all burgundy uniforms for the first time since 1979 and played '70s music all night. At least the embarrassing loss sounded good.

Trade

The Phillies acquired utilityman Jose Pirela from the Padres Saturday. More here on why they made the trade.

Up next

The series ends Sunday afternoon at 1:05 when Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.64) opposes Kevin Gausman (3-5, 5.71).

Gausman returned last Sunday from a six-week stay on the injured list and pitched well against the Nationals, allowing one run over seven innings while striking out eight.

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Phillies’ next 3 opponents have even more to play for, which doesn’t bode well

Phillies’ next 3 opponents have even more to play for, which doesn’t bode well

The Phillies will begin their final road trip of the season Tuesday and they’ll be either four or five games out of the second wild-card spot with 14 to play, pending the result of Cubs-Reds Monday night.

The first stop of the 11-game trip is Atlanta, where the Braves will have as much to play for as the Phillies. They are four games behind the Dodgers in their long shot attempt to gain home-field advantage in the NL playoffs. If the Dodgers had a larger lead and no advantage was to be gained, Atlanta might have been resting key players by now.

After that three-game set comes a weekend series in Cleveland. The Indians are 1 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second AL wild-card spot. That series against the Phillies will be a must-win for Terry Francona’s club.

The last stop is D.C. for five games, including a doubleheader on day two. The Nationals are in good shape, leading the wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over the Cubs and 2 1/2 games on the teams chasing them. The Phillies will see all three of Washington’s aces in that series.

The Nationals clinched their eighth consecutive winning season over the weekend. That streak began the same year as the Phillies’ current string of non-winning seasons.

The road to a wild-card spot is damn near impossible. Even the path to a winning record will be challenging for the Phillies, who must go 6-8 or better to finish with at least 82 wins.

There will be change this offseason, the question is how much. The Phillies put together some nice pieces but not a winning formula in 2019. That may have even been true if half the injured relievers were still active, given how few games the Phillies had the pitching advantage in the first five innings this season.

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Bryce Harper fumes at umpire as Phillies lose more ground to put winning season in peril

Bryce Harper fumes at umpire as Phillies lose more ground to put winning season in peril

After a homestand that saw them lose four of six games, and with a killer, 11-game road trip looming, the question no longer seems to be will the Phillies make the playoffs, it’s will they even have a winning season?

They have done neither since 2011.

Making the playoffs became the longest of long shots after the Phils lost a pair of games over the weekend to the Boston Red Sox. The Sox completed a two-game sweep with a 6-3 win on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies scored just four runs in the series. Only two of their 12 hits were for extra bases and they struck out a staggering 25 times.

Twenty-freaking-five.

With 14 games remaining, the Phils are 4 ½ games back in the NL wild-card race and their overall record is 76-72. They need to go at least 6-8 to finish with a winning record and that won’t be easy with this remaining schedule:

Three games in Atlanta.

Three games at Cleveland.

Five games at Washington.

Three games at home against Miami.

Atlanta, Cleveland and Washington entered Sunday a combined 74 games over .500 and Miami gives the Phillies fits.

Finishing with a winning record will be a challenge.

But for now, manager Gabe Kapler remains focused on keeping the Phillies’ faint playoff hopes a-flicker.

“My only concern is the step right in front of us,” Kapler said after Sunday’s loss. “That's winning the game (Tuesday night) in Atlanta. I'm already past what happened in this Boston series. It's going to sting. It's going to suck. The plane ride's going to be difficult, and we'll start game-planning for Atlanta. One game at a time, one step at a time.

“We have no choice but to continue to fight. You know what? Sometimes you see the best come out in people when their backs are against the wall. Ours are against the wall. My expectation is that you'll see our best.”

The Phillies were not at their best on Sunday.

Starting pitcher Jason Vargas did not keep his club in the game and lasted just three innings for the second straight start. His ERA over his last four starts is a plump 7.63.

“It's one of those things where you don't want to say one game means more than the other but it's easier to say that earlier in the year than later in the year,” said Vargas, who surrendered a third-inning grand slam to Christian Vazquez. “When it comes down to it, you really feel like you're in a spot where you have to put Ws on the board and when it doesn't happen you feel like you let everybody down."

The Phillies were also not at their strongest on Sunday. At least they did not have their strongest personnel on the field, not after Bryce Harper got ejected for protesting a called third strike with home plate umpire Gabe Morales in the fourth inning.

Morales missed the call and Harper retreated to the video area behind the dugout. He watched the replay of the pitch, saw that it was outside the zone, returned to the dugout and shouted, “It’s not even bleeping close,” to Morales.

The umpire ejected Harper.

“Then I kind of let him have it,” Harper said. “It just sucks. You’re in the middle of a race and you’re in a 1-2 count and (Boston starter Rick) Porcello throws a front-hipper like he did in my first at-bat, which was a good pitch. I’m going to tip my cap when he throws me a good pitch, but I disagreed with that call and I kind of looked back at him and said, ‘That’s not a strike.’ He kind of looked at me like, ‘Yeah, right, stupid.’ It was that kind of look and I went back and thought, ‘Maybe he’s right.’ I went back and looked at it and it wasn’t close.”

Kapler was also ejected for defending Harper.

“I think everybody can look at the pitch and see why both Bryce was upset and I was upset on his behalf,” Kapler said. “It’s an enormous game, obviously, with a lot of implications and I thought, obviously, Bryce was right about the pitch, but just as importantly, I thought, in a game of this magnitude there could have been a little bit of a longer leash to allow him to stay in this game and allow it to play out on the field.”

A pool reporter attempted to speak with Morales shortly after the game. Morales was present but said he could not speak because crew chief Jerry Meals had already departed for the airport. Talk about your quick getaways.

Harper did not dispute that his getting ejected left his team in a bind.

“You can’t get thrown out in that situation, of course,” he said. “I don’t want to get thrown out in that situation. But, you know, it happened.

“I usually don’t complain unless it’s there. I’m pro pitcher, too. If a pitcher throws a good pitch, I’m all about it. Like I said, first at-bat Porcello threw that front-hipper and punched me out, so I tipped my cap to him right there. So the next at-bat, I’m kind of sitting on the same pitch because he kind of did the same thing and it wasn’t close. You get into a 2-2 count against him and you see another pitch. He might have punched me out on the next pitch, but also I might have hit a double in the gap and I’m on second base.

“On both sides, you have to be better, especially in these games right now. You have to be better back there. I know he’s not trying to call a strike or not call a ball, but he just has to be better for me.”



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