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.