Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 0: Phillies waste impressive performance by Zach Eflin

Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 0: Phillies waste impressive performance by Zach Eflin


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.

Slumping Cesar

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.

Injury updates

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.

Up next

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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Scream? Kick a chair? 'I'm not f---ing Dallas Green, never will be,' Gabe Kapler says

Scream? Kick a chair? 'I'm not f---ing Dallas Green, never will be,' Gabe Kapler says

If you're waiting for Gabe Kapler to yell and scream about the current state of the Phillies, to kick over a chair or flip over a table, you'll be waiting a long time. 

It's not his personality. It's not how he views leadership. It's not, in his opinion, the most effective way to send a message.

The topic came up again Tuesday after the Phillies' disgusting 16-2 loss to the Dodgers Monday night, a game that featured maybe their worst two innings of the season. In the fourth, the Phillies were out of position on a safety squeeze, allowed a steal of home and then forgot how many outs there were. In the eighth inning, they were forced to turn to Roman Quinn to pitch because the bullpen was so wretched that it turned a six-run deficit into a 13-run deficit.

Asked Tuesday if he thinks he needs to express more anger to his players, Kapler said, "I'm not f---ing Dallas Green."

"I think many people are looking for me to behave in a certain way," Kapler said. "Who are the managers who stand out through history who are respected in these situations? It's Lou Piniella, it's Dallas Green. Right? These are the guys who you expect to see handle these situations. 

"It's not my personality. It's not who I am. I don't think it's the best way to motivate people. So I don't do it. But it doesn't mean that I don't have every possible conversation and it doesn't mean that I don't care deeply and passionately about making our players. It doesn't mean that I won't look under every stone to give them every opportunity and support to be the best versions of themselves. I'll continue to do that. 

"I just don't do it in the way that many people think it should be done. I'm not going to apologize for that. I'm not going to say like, 'Man, I should be Dallas Green.' I'm not f---ing Dallas Green. I never will be."

Two ways to look at this. On the one hand, Kapler deserves some credit for remaining true to himself and not caving to media or fan pressure to act in a manner he doesn't feel will work. On the other hand ... maybe it will work? How can you know until you try? So far, attempting to push and motivate this team through constant support, harmony and looseness has not worked. It has not stopped the losing.

"It's something that I think about a lot. I think there's more than one way to motivate," Kapler said. "If you have 25 different personalities in a room, some of them are going to respond to some styles of leadership and others are going to respond to other styles of leadership. It's not every person in the room is the same way. That's not baseball. That's human behavior."

Kapler and his staff will continue to look for ways to motivate this Phillies team, that is somehow, someway still tied for the second wild-card spot despite losing 24 of its last 39 games.

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Phillies pick a convenient time to sit Maikel Franco for not hustling

Phillies pick a convenient time to sit Maikel Franco for not hustling

The Phillies' benching Tuesday of Maikel Franco is a pretty good example of players being treated differently based on how integral they are to winning.

Franco was out of Tuesday's lineup after not running full-speed down the line on a groundball to third base with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning Monday. It was the second time in three innings the Phillies stranded the bases loaded against Clayton Kershaw. Justin Turner's throw was wide of first, and if Franco was running hard, he may have beaten the play. He wasn't running hard, and the inning ended.

Kapler did not call it a "benching" by name but it's clear that it was. Franco is also experiencing some groin tightness but not significant enough to keep him out. 

"Maikey took responsibility immediately," Kapler said. "He said he had a hard time sleeping last night over it. He did mention that his groin was tight and that was the reason he wasn't able to get down the line. And I said look, I can't put you in the lineup today. He said he was ready to play today. I said I still can't put you in the lineup today because if you're not able to give us that 100 percent effort down the line in that situation last night, it's not right for me to start you today. 

"He understood that and accepted full responsibility for it."

It's interesting that Kapler chose this player, this instance to send a message. It's easier when it's a player like Franco, isn't it? A player the Phillies have benched multiple times over the last two seasons. At different points, Franco has been benched in favor of J.P. Crawford, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Sean Rodriguez, Brad Miller and Scott Kingery. 

Hustle has been an ongoing issue for the 2019 Phillies. Jean Segura had the two most egregious offenses, not hustling on the play that led to Andrew McCutchen's torn ACL, and then again on a bloop to left field to lead off a game against Max Scherzer. It was an issue with Cesar Hernandez. It came up for Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper, too.

In none of those instances was the player benched. Kapler said after the two Segura incidents that he did not believe benching Segura was the right way to get through to him. Which may be true. Different guys respond differently to punishment. (Segura, by the way, was out of Tuesday's lineup with a heel bruise.)

It's still pretty convenient that Franco was the only one to be benched the next game.

"I had a conversation with our club about how important it is to bust our asses down the line," Kapler said. "The one thing we can control all the time is our effort level. I just thought the time was right to address it with Maikel.

"I think you guys know that these decisions or me taking a player out of the lineup in a punitive way is not my natural way of handling these type of situations. In this particular situation, I felt it was critical to address right after some of the other incidents we've had. I had a conversation with the club. I shared with them that it's not an acceptable level of effort. We have to do a better job so I thought this was the right time to make a change in this situation."

That's all well and good. These conversations or responses to a lack of hustle just might have been more effective when the topic came up six weeks ago.

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