A road trip that started with three wins in the nation's capital ended in disappointment for the Phillies on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
The Phils suffered a 4-3 loss to the Brewers and missed a chance to shave a game off the Atlanta Braves' lead in the NL East. The loss was the Phillies' second straight to Milwaukee and it left them with two straight series defeats.
After sweeping the Nationals in Washington last week, the Phils went to Miami and Milwaukee and lost two of three in each city.
Despite losing two series, the Phils picked up two games in the standings during the nine-game road trip. They trail the Braves, who lost for the ninth time in 14 games on Wednesday night, by 2½.
The Phils have 23 games remaining. They will play 14 of their next 17 at home before hitting the road for the final six games of the season.
"It sure would have been nice to go 6-3," manager Joe Girardi said. "But we had a winning trip. We're going home. We have a bunch of games at home over the next two weeks and we need to take advantage of that."
It was an eventful three-day stay in Milwaukee for the Phillies. They won the first game of the series, 12-0, behind Zack Wheeler and six home runs on Monday. They lost the second game, 10-0, on Tuesday.
After banging out 16 hits Monday, the Phils had just 10 hits the next two games and only one after the third inning Wednesday night.
Eduardo Escobar was the difference maker Wednesday night. He broke a 3-3 tie with a booming solo homer against right-hander Connor Brogdon with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Batting from the left side, the switch-hitting Escobar turned on an 0-1, 97-mph fastball and hit it deep into the right-field seats. Lefty Jose Alvarado was up in the bullpen at the time, but Escobar hits lefties better than righties so the matchup with Brogdon made sense.
Both starting pitchers struggled with command and high pitch counts. Milwaukee's Freddy Peralta did not make it through the fourth inning.
Phillies starter Kyle Gibson needed 56 pitches to get through the first two innings but managed to work into the fifth and hold the Brewers to three runs despite allowing 11 base runners.
"He just didn't have command early, but he did a good job limiting the damage and giving us a chance to win," Girardi said.
The Phils got a solo homer from Bryce Harper in the first inning -- it was his 29th of the season and fourth on the road trip -- and tied the game at 3-3 on a bases-loaded walk by Harper and a ground out by J.T. Realmuto in the third.
Harper walked three times, including with two outs in the eighth inning to put two men on base for Realmuto in a one-run game. Devin Williams struck out Realmuto on a changeup off the plate to end the threat and protect the Brewers' one-run lead.
Realmuto went 0 for 8 with four strikeouts the last two games of the series.
The Phillies sure miss Rhys Hoskins behind Harper.
Girardi acknowledged that teams may continue to pitch around Harper without a big bat behind him.
"It's possible," he said. "But those guys will get going. I have a lot of confidence in them. We faced some good pitching here. They can run some arms at you. We had a chance. We just weren't able to come up with the big hit."
The Phillies now embark on a crucial stretch that includes playing 14 of their next 17 at home, where they are 11 games over .500. The Phils need to do more than keep their head above water during this stretch. They need to dominate.
They open a four-game series against Colorado at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night. Lefty Ranger Suarez will face right-hander Anthony Senzatela in the opener. The Phillies need at least a series win against the Rockies, who are a dismal 18-50 on the road.
After hosting the Cubs for three next week, the Phillies play a three-game series in New York against the Mets, then return home for three against Baltimore and four against Pittsburgh, two teams that are a combined 89 games under .500.
The matchups are favorable for the Phillies. Will they take advantage before heading to Atlanta for possibly the series of the season on September 28? Stay tuned. This thing might go right down to the wire.
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