Phillies can't overcome early stumbles in series-opening loss to Blue Jays

Phillies can't overcome early stumbles in series-opening loss to Blue Jays


The Phillies had climbed to nine games over .500 largely because of the starting pitching’s ability to keep them in games.

On Friday night, that didn’t happen. Zach Eflin was hit hard in giving up six runs in 4 2/3 innings and the Phillies lost the opener of a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5, at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies put together a mini-rally in the ninth to make it a one-run game. They had the bases loaded with one out, but Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera struck out Rhys Hoskins then got Odubel Herrera to ground out to end the game.

In the end, a 6-1 deficit was too big for the Phils to overcome.

The loss left the Phillies at 28-20. They had entered the day a half game behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East.

Two years ago, Eflin made his big-league debut against these same Blue Jays. It was a day he’d rather forget; he was tagged for nine hits and nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto. This beating was not as bad, but it was sound nonetheless.

Eflin gave up four hits in the first inning and the Jays pushed across three two-out runs. He allowed a pair of two-out RBI doubles to Yangervis Solarte and Kevin Pillar, respectively, and both came on fastballs when he was behind in the count.

With the help of a defensive gem by Herrera at the center-field wall for the second out of the second inning, Eflin got things together for three innings — he even clubbed his first career homer to get the Phils on the board — before the Jays tagged him for three more in the fifth to open a 6-1 lead.

Toronto starter Sam Gaviglio held the Phillies to one hit and a run over the first five innings. The Phils mounted a charge in the bottom of the fifth when Herrera doubled and Carlos Santana followed with a two-run homer. 

In the eighth, the Phils made it a two-run game on back-to-back doubles by Cesar Hernandez and Hoskins with no outs against reliever Tyler Clippard. 

The Phils carved another run off the Jays' lead in the bottom of the ninth, but ultimately came up short.

Eflin has made four starts since coming up from Triple A. The first two were strong, even eye-opening, as he showed a big fastball and allowed just one run in 12 2/3 innings. He has not made it through the fifth in his last two outings, giving up 10 runs, three of which were unearned. 

• Jorge Alfaro showed off his rocket arm once more, throwing out Teoscar Hernandez trying to steal second in the third inning. Alfaro has gunned down eight of the last 11 runners who have attempted to steal on him.

• Hernandez extended his streak of reaching base safely to 28 games with a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth.

• Toronto had lost nine of 11 and 14 of 19 coming in.

• Victor Arano, Adam Morgan and Tommy Hunter combined on 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to keep the game close for the Phillies.

One big way Tommy Hunter could help Phillies over final 75-80 games

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One big way Tommy Hunter could help Phillies over final 75-80 games

A key piece of the Phillies' bullpen is nearly ready to return. Tommy Hunter, out all season with a flexor strain, could be activated as early as this weekend while the Phillies are in Miami.

Hunter pitched two scoreless innings for Reading on a rehab assignment Tuesday night. He struck out two and got a double play ball, needing just 18 pitches to get through the two innings.

Because Hunter has been out the entire first half, the Phillies would ideally like to get him in back-to-back games during his rehab stint but won't delay his activation too long if they cannot.

Hunter will be a welcomed addition to the Phillies' injury-ravaged bullpen and should be in a primary setup role before too long. He bounced back from an inconsistent first half in 2018 to post a 2.91 ERA over his final 30 appearances.

One big way Hunter should help the Phillies is against left-handed hitters. He is a right-handed reliever but relies heavily on his cutter, a pitch he uses to jam lefties or backdoor them for a strike. 

The Phillies can't turn to Adam Morgan or Jose Alvarez to match up with every lefty they face, so they need right-handed relievers who can retire lefties. So far this season, their righties have not done it effectively. Lefties have hit .325 against the right-handed group of Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Edgar Garcia, Edubray Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez.

There is still a chance for Hunter to earn some of this year's $9 million salary. If he can stay healthy, his arm will be a fresh one in the second half.

Other injury updates

• David Robertson (flexor strain) is still several weeks away. The Phillies have gotten frustratingly little out of Robertson, Hunter and Neshek this season, a trio combining to earn $25 million.

• Adam Haseley (groin) will play nine innings tonight for Reading.

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10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

AP / USAT / Opeechee

10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

Philly sports fans have been remembering some guys since the first ball was thrown at the Baker Bowl or Shibe Park over a century ago. The folks at Deadspin popularized the online version of “Remembering Some Guys.” And when the bamboo strikes real good, sometimes we want to remember some Philly guys on social media as NBC Sports Philly’s Twitter and Facebook accounts prompted on Tuesday evening.

The responses were clear: people love remembering some Philly sports guys.

Here are 10 of our favorite responses.

One of the more popular responses was pitcher Antonio Alfonseca who had an unremarkable stint in Philly in 2007 but is frequently remembered for being a polydactyly. He had six fingers on one hand and Wikipedia says his nickname was "El Pulpo" which translates to "The Octopus." Tough to forget that guy.

Did Michael Zordich invent Zubaz? You’d probably believe me if I told you he did. What do we remember about Mike Zordich? Mostly just the look.

Willie Burton broke the record for points scored in a game at the Spectrum by a Sixer when he went off for 53 in an improbable game in 1994. Remember that?

I’m not a big hockey guy so picking a rando was tougher but I was always a fan of Luca Sbisa because the guy’s name was Luca and he was a hockey player from Italy. Amazing.

Reno Mahe and Gizmo Williams.

These two were among the most-frequently mentioned in our polling. People like to remember special teamers, it seems. The best thing I remember about Reno was that he worked at Chickie’s and Pete’s while playing for the Eagles. Talk about lunch pail kinda guy. Plenty of people remember Gizmo because the guy’s name was Gizmo and he flipped. People remember flips.

What do we remember about Kjell Samuelsson? Dude was huge! Like a Chewbacca on skates.

People love to remember Dickie Thon and Rick Schu. I think it's the quirky names. Fun fact: Dickie’s name was actually Richard. Rich Schu had the unenviable job of taking over third base for Mike Schmidt. Tough job.

Markelle Fultz. Lol. Remember that guy?

That was fun. You know who I remember? Raja Bell. Pretty good name for a guy playing in Philly. Plus, Kobe eventually hated him. David, too, I guess. He hit for the cycle once.

Who else do you remember?