Zach Eflin pitched one of the best games all season from a Phillies starter but received no run support in a 2-0 loss to the Diamondbacks.
The D-backs' only runs came across in the fifth inning on three straight softly hit bloop singles and a sacrifice fly. Eflin was in complete control the entire night, inducing two inning-ending double plays and a ton of soft contact. He retired the first nine batters of the game and worked efficiently all night, throwing just 82 pitches over eight innings.
Unfortunately for him, Merrill Kelly was even better. The Arizona right-hander pitched 7⅔ scoreless innings, put only three men on base and struck out five. It was his third consecutive start of at least seven innings and no more than one run allowed.
The Phillies had just three hits, two from Nick Williams, who doubled and singled. The other was an infield single by J.T. Realmuto.
Williams started in right field for Bryce Harper, who was out of the Phillies' lineup for the first time all season (see story). Harper pinch-hit with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth inning and lined out to center off D-backs lefty reliever Andrew Chafin.
Thursday is the Phils' only off day until July 1, and then they're in Atlanta for three big games against the Braves.
This series loss to the Diamondbacks was the Phillies' first at home since May 13-16 against the Brewers.
At 2 hours, 16 minutes, it was the fastest Phillies game of the season.
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Eflin took advantage of the D-backs' free-swinging ways to strike out eight and get six more outs on the ground. Even the balls to the outfield were cans of corn.
The outing lowered his ERA to 2.81. The only thing that kept him from going complete was the Phillies' need for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth.
Eflin had that surprisingly poor outing on April 13 in Miami. In his other 12 starts, he has a 2.25 ERA. He's been the Phillies' best starting pitcher this season by far.
Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 50 over his last 13 games and has a .222 on-base percentage since replacing Andrew McCutchen in the leadoff spot. Hernandez is every bit as cold in June as he was hot in May.
The Phillies don't have many great options out of the leadoff spot. Scott Kingery has been hitting of late but moving him to the leadoff spot could cause him to alter his approach, which is the last thing you'd want right now. It's not the same as moving up from seventh to sixth or sixth to fifth. Out of the leadoff spot, a hitter's approach can change even subconsciously as he tries to do the things he thinks a leadoff man should, like take pitches. That is not Kingery's game.
Roman Quinn could be an option in the leadoff spot when he's ready to return, which will likely be this weekend in Atlanta. Quinn wasn't hitting at the time of his groin injury, but he has since given up switch-hitting and is just in a different frame of mind. Don't be surprised if he's much more productive upon his return.
Quinn (groin) and Pat Neshek (shoulder) could return in the Braves series.
Adam Morgan (flexor strain) could be back late next week as long as the two bullpen sessions he's scheduled for these next four days go well.
Tommy Hunter (flexor strain) shouldn't be too far behind, and David Robertson (elbow) played catch Tuesday for the first time since going on the IL two months ago.
After Thursday's off day, the Phillies open an important three-game series in Atlanta against a Braves team that has won 20 of 29.
Friday night at 7:20 — Nick Pivetta (4-1, 4.93) vs. LHP Max Fried (7-3, 3.75)
Saturday night at 7:20 — Aaron Nola (6-1, 4.58) vs. TBA
Sunday afternoon at 1:20 — TBA vs. Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 6.02)
The Phillies have not decided yet whether Sunday's start will go to Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos or an opener.
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