The Phillies suffered their fourth defeat in the last five games when they were beaten by the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4, on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The Orioles, who hit three home runs, have beaten the Phillies two nights in a row and will go for a series sweep Thursday afternoon.
The Phillies are 5-8 and frustration is mounting. Struggling Rhys Hoskins became the first Phillie in 10 years (Placido Polanco did it in 2010) to hit into three double plays. After the second one, he smashed his helmet to the ground and the sound echoed all over the empty ballpark.
For the season, the Phils are a combined 1-4 against Miami and Baltimore. Those two clubs lost 105 and 108 games, respectively, last season.
Right-hander Zach Eflin struck out a career-high 10 batters but could not hold a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. He allowed seven hits, two of which were homers, and four runs over six innings.
Eflin once again featured his bread-and-butter sinker. He got hurt on three breaking balls, a 1-2 slider that Anthony Santander hit for a homer in the third inning, an 0-1 curveball that Chance Sisco blooped for a two-run single with two outs in the fourth, and a 2-2 slider that Rio Ruiz hit for a homer with two outs in the fifth. Ruiz's homer to center traveled 405 feet and gave the O's a 4-3 lead.
The Orioles built their lead to 5-3 on a solo homer by Sisco against reliever Adam Morgan in the seventh. Sisco hit an 0-1 breaking ball.
Morgan threw just three fastballs out of 17 pitches and it averaged just 91 mph. That would seem to be a concern and something worth watching as Morgan missed significant time last year with an elbow injury and is one of the veterans the Phils are counting on out of the 'pen this season.
The Phillies' bullpen remains the worst in baseball. It has allowed 41 earned runs in 38⅓ innings for a 9.63 ERA.
The Phillies made it a one-run game when Andrew Knapp (three hits, two RBIs) drove home a run in the eighth. The Phillies continued to threaten in the inning, putting runners on first and second for Andrew McCutchen with two outs.
McCutchen scorched a ball between short and third that had game-tying single written all over it. But Ruiz, Baltimore's third baseman, made a diving play to halt the hot smash and from his sprawled position rolled the ball to second for the third out.
Hoskins, who entered the game hitting .211 with no homers and one RBI, grounded into three 5-4-3 double plays, the second of which came with two men on base in a tie game in the fourth.
Hoskins hit just .180 after the All-Star break last season and frustration is clearly building. After hitting into the double play in the fourth inning, he crossed first base and slammed his helmet (loudly) into the ground. It was an unusual show of anger/frustration for the usually even-tempered Hoskins, who also walked and struck out. He's hitting .190.
Scott Kingery, 4 for 40 with 10 strikeouts to start the season, was held out of the starting lineup. Kingery struck out twice late in Tuesday night's game, both on pitches out of the strike zone.
Phil Gosselin got the start at second base.
Gosselin entered the game 9 for 18 (.500) with a .591 on-base percentage. Though Gosselin did not reach base in the game, he saved a run with an excellent defensive play in the first inning.
Manager Joe Girardi has said he's committed to getting core guys like Kingery ample opportunity to get going, but the season is moving fast — more than 20 percent is gone — and Girardi has to balance patience with urgency.
Not the same
McCutchen has been slow starting at the plate. He entered the game with just five hits in his first 34 at-bats (.147) and his on-base percentage was just .211.
It was a good sign that McCutchen came out of the gate with a pair of line-drive hits in his first three at-bats. He continued to hit the ball well late in the game and was robbed of a hit.
But McCutchen, who missed four months last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, is still not moving well on the bases or in left field. This is something worth watching — either way. Maybe McCutchen will start moving better as he gets further away from the injury. Or maybe this is what he is at age 33 with two serious knee injuries on his chart.
Cut the shift
For the second time in the young season, Bryce Harper beat an extreme shift with a bunt base hit toward third base. It came with no outs in the third inning and Hoskins (walk) on first base. Both Hoskins and Harper ended up scoring on a hit by J.T. Realmuto and a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius as the Phillies took a 3-1 lead.
The series concludes Thursday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. Former Phillies prospect Tom Eshelman pitches for the Orioles against Jake Arrieta, who is coming off six scoreless innings against the Braves.
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