LOS ANGELES — Phillies hitters were dominated by Ross Stripling.
Good luck against Clayton Kershaw.
Stripling began the season in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen then moved into the rotation earlier this month when injuries mounted on the staff. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball and struck out nine Phillies to lead the Dodgers to an 8-2 win on Wednesday night (see first take).
“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposition,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Ross Striping was tremendous today. He kept us off-balance all night. He mixed his pitches well. The cutter-slider thing was working really effectively. He mixed it with the curveball. He was good. He was on his game. We had trouble making the adjustment.”
The Dodgers have won 10 of their last 13 games, including two of three against the Phillies. The Phils need a win Thursday to earn a series split, but it won’t be easy as Kershaw will come off the disabled list — he’s been down for a month with biceps tendinitis — to make the start. Stripling has 11 big-league wins. Kershaw has three National League Cy Young awards and five ERA titles. So the assignment will be a lot tougher for the Phillies on Thursday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, one of their top starters.
“Obviously we have two very good pitchers on the mound,” Kapler said. “As a baseball fan, I'm very excited about that matchup. As a Phillie, I'm very excited about facing the best.”
The Phillies are 30-23. They entered the game in third place in the NL East, just a game behind first-place Atlanta and a half game behind second-place Washington. Atlanta lost its game against the Mets while Washington defeated Baltimore. So the Nationals are now in first place in the division, a half game up on Atlanta and the Phillies are in third, 1½ games back.
Starter Zach Eflin was hit hard. He gave up a run in the first inning and three in the third on a solo homer, a walk and another homer. He lasted just four innings and gave up seven hits and a walk. He struck out five.
“I threw some good pitches, I threw some bad pitches,” Eflin said. “They took advantage of my bad pitches and they hit some good pitches, so it’s just one of those days where I’m not going to look back and say I did bad or I did horrible. I had really good stuff today. It’s just one of those days where I got hit around.”
Eflin came up from Triple A on May 1 and gave up just one run over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts. Since then, he has made three starts and been tagged for 19 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. Eflin has been given the chance to lock down the fifth spot in the rotation, but he’s hardly done that. Meanwhile, Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos are pitching well at Triple A if the Phils look to make a change.
“We're constantly evaluating our players,” Kapler said. “We're constantly making determinations on what happens next. That's something — we're not there yet. Next couple of days, we'll be thinking about that.”
With Rhys Hoskins likely headed to the disabled list (see story), Nick Williams will get more regular playing time. He homered for the fifth time in his last 15 games for the Phillies’ first run of the game.
“I think he deserves an opportunity to get a good look here,” Kapler said.