Phillies

Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

ATLANTA — The Phillies departed on this 11-game road trip needing to win just about all of them to have a shot at making the postseason. There are still two more cities to visit and miles upon miles to go on this trip, but …

Do you believe in miracles?

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do in this clubhouse,” Zach Eflin said after backboning a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Phils have opened the road trip with two straight wins against the soon-to-be NL East champs and they will look for a sweep behind Aaron Nola on Thursday. A sweep is almost a must if the Phillies want to stay in the NL wild-card chase. There are 12 games remaining and they are three back.

The Phillies have used the long ball in beating the Braves on back-to-back nights. They have hit four homers in the two games and three of them have been two-run shots. Bryce Harper keyed the offense Wednesday night with a two-run bomb in the fourth inning. Cesar Hernandez also homered and the Phils scored their third run on a bases-loaded walk.

The Phils had just four hits in the game and they struck out 12 times. They also committed three errors in the field. All of this made it imperative that they get a good performance from their pitchers and they did.

Eflin was brilliant for seven innings and the bullpen tandem of Jose Alvarez and Hector Neris got the final six outs in speedy fashion.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler gushed about Eflin.

“That was the toughest, from a mental standpoint, start from a pitcher that we've gotten all season long,” he said. “Quite simply, we didn't make plays behind him early on. He continued to get ground ball after ground ball. Calls were not going his way. And that was true when he was at that plate, as well. He just kind of had a resiliency about him throughout this game. He wasn't going to get beat mentally. He just continued to induce ground balls and got weak contact throughout the game. That was why we won that game.

“I think that there were a lot of people who were inspired — myself and the coaching staff and many of the players in the dugout — by the start that Zach just made. “

Eflin had struggled mightily in three previous starts against the Braves this season, including one last week. In just 9 1/3 innings, he was tagged for 17 hits and 20 runs (eight were unearned). He walked nine and struck out nine.

The 25-year-old righty rebounded impressively in this one. Relying heavily on his favorite pitch, a sinking, two-seam fastball, he held the Braves to five hits and one unearned run. He walked two and struck out four. He threw 99 pitches and 57 were sinkers. He got 12 outs on the ground, including a big double play against Brian McCann to end the sixth inning.

“The part that makes it especially mentally tough is the fact that he just faced the Braves,” Kapler said. “It's an incredibly tough lineup to go through several times, but even more so that he's coming off a start against them. 

“We've talked about this time of year being when we're going to fight and scratch and claw. That was fight. That was tough from Zach Eflin.”

Over his last five starts, Eflin has allowed just five earned runs in 28 2/3 innings for a 1.57 ERA.  

After some mid-season struggles, he has found himself again. It has all coincided with his re-dedication to throwing his favorite pitch, the sinker.

“At the end of the day, I’m going out and attacking guys and if it’s my sinker that day that’s working I’m going to use my sinker, if it’s my change-up I’m going to use my change-up,” he said. “We figure out what we have going early in the bullpen before the game. Today was the sinker. It’s been working these last couple outings so if it’s there next outing you’ll probably see it again.”

The Phillies still have stops in Cleveland (three games) and Washington (five) on this trip.

They face the longest of odds in making the postseason, but they’re not dead.

“We come in every single day mentally and physically ready to play and win,” Eflin said. “We have the guys in the clubhouse to do it and get there and make a postseason run, so to be able to do that and play good baseball at the same time is really good for us. We’re looking forward to riding this momentum the next couple of days and into the next series that we have coming and really doing everything we can to make it.”

On paper, you have to like the Phillies' chances with their ace, Nola, on the mound in Thursday’s series finale. However, the Phils are 0-5 in his last five starts.

Can he turn things around and keep the Phillies’ momentum going?

“I think it's really important that we focus on just one game,” Kapler said. “More specifically, just one pitch. The first pitch of the game for Aaron Nola, the first pitch of the game for our leadoff batter tomorrow is what we're focused on.”



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It turns out Jeopardy host Alex Trebek isn't the biggest fan of the Phanatic

It turns out Jeopardy host Alex Trebek isn't the biggest fan of the Phanatic

Jeopardy has been home to some great moments regarding Philadelphia sports in the past.

 I wish this was another one of these moments ... but it's not.

 It turns out, the show's host host Alex Trebek isn't a big fan of the Phillie Phanatic ... I know, I'm hurt too.


 The Phillies are in disbelief, we all are.
 
 Of course, fans had quite the reaction to the video that surfaced on social media. After all, the Phanatic is the best mascot in all of sports (totally unbiased, of course).




 

I don't even want to know what he thinks about Gritty.

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Bryce Harper shares thoughts on Nationals playing in World Series without him

Bryce Harper shares thoughts on Nationals playing in World Series without him

Right around the time the Washington Nationals were clinching their World Series berth this week, a guy who left that team to come play in Philadelphia posted a cute photo to his Instagram story with his baby son. It included the caption, "cuddle time is the best time."

I made light of the juxtaposition of that photo with what Nationals players were currently doing in a tongue-in-cheek tweet, but it's hard not to think about Bryce Harper during this Nationals run.

We know exactly how Nationals fans down in DC feel about their former favorite slugger who departed DC for big time bucks. They won't stop telling us.

But what was Harper feeling? Thanks to a one-on-one interview Harper did with Jayson Stark of the Athletic, we now have a glimpse into Harper's mind during this unique time.

Stark says Harper was effusive in his praise of the city of Philadelphia during their chat. And the majority of Harper's answers are very savvy in a public relations sense. Harper is good at saying what you think he's supposed to say. But it doesn't come off as disingenuous.

Stark asked Harper if he was feeling any jealousy watching his old pals spray champagne in the locker room and his answer comes off as pretty honest. From the Athletic ($):

“No,” he said again, without a millisecond’s hesitation, “because like I said, I made my decision, and that was my decision. And it was the final decision that I made. You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude towards anybody else.

“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am,” he went on, “and not saying to myself, `Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, `Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous.’ No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”

There's plenty more to the piece worth diving into. Stark also spoke with former National/Phillie Jayson Werth, who knows a thing or two about both cities/clubs and also what it's like to play alongside Harper.

The Nationals' opponent in the World Series is yet to be set, but whether it's the Nationals, New York Yankees or Houston Astros who are spraying champagne at the end of it, you won't see Harper doing that. Unless he and his little baby pop up in his Instagram stories getting wacky.

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