Phillies

Phillies use bats to rebound from debacle for doubleheader split with Mets

Phillies use bats to rebound from debacle for doubleheader split with Mets

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were able to flush a horrendous performance in the opener and come back and win the second game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets on Thursday night.

Zach Eflin pitched 6 2/3 innings and Rhys Hoskins clubbed a three-run homer to lead a 9-6 victory.

The win came on the heels of an ugly 24-4 loss in the first game. The Phillies made four errors in the game and their pitchers were charged with 11 unearned runs. The Mets had 11 extra-base hits in the opener, including three homers, against five Phillies pitchers, two of which were position players.

Phillies pitching held the Mets to nine hits in the nightcap. They had 25 in the opener.

By coming back and earning a split in the doubleheader, the second-place Phils were able to pick up a half-game on first-place Atlanta in the NL East standings. The Braves' lead is 1½ games. 

Things did not get off to a promising start in the second game as Eflin allowed three straight doubles and two runs to open the game.

The right-hander got things in order after that. He rattled off five straight scoreless innings before the Mets scored twice in the seventh and manager Gabe Kapler went to his bullpen. Luis Garcia and Victor Arano were effective and Seranthony Dominguez cleaned up a little mess in the ninth to close it out with a strikeout of dangerous Jose Bautista with two men on base and the Mets down by three.

Hoskins homered in the first game but also made a costly error in the Mets’ 10-run fifth inning.

After the Mets scored twice in the first inning of the second game, Hoskins clubbed a three-run homer against Steven Matz in the bottom of the inning to put the Phils ahead. They never relinquished the lead.

Hoskins has three homers in the last four games and 25 on the season.

Scott Kingery, who limbered up with some time on the mound in the first game, started at shortstop and clubbed a solo homer in the second inning.

The Phillies had 14 hits. Wilson Ramos had his second three-hit night in as many games since joining the club. Hoskins, Kingery, Nick Williams and Cesar Hernandez all had two apiece.

Eflin is 9-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 17 starts.

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Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

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.

Eflin's night

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.

Bullpen blues

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.

Brooks Ruiz

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.

Frustration city

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.

Kingery sits

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.

Up next

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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Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Updated, 10:30 p.m.

Needing to capitalize on every game against a bad team in a 60-game season, the Phillies are off to a 1-4 start against the Marlins and Orioles. They have one more game with the Orioles Thursday, then seven straight games against the Marlins from Sept. 10-14 in Miami.

The Phillies have dug themselves a hole in which even going 6-2 in those remaining games against two of baseball's least talented teams would result in them finishing just 7-6 against the Marlins and Orioles. NL East and AL East teams entered this season knowing they'd need to clean up on Miami and Baltimore given the strength of the other eight teams, ranging from World Series contenders like the Yankees to clubs in the 85-win range like the Phillies, Mets and Blue Jays.

The Marlins and Orioles have just been better than the Phillies pitchers they're facing. It's the biggest reason why the Phils continue to struggle against bad teams. Do they have better players? Of course. But the gap in talent shrinks when you're forced to use some of your least reliable players (e.g. relievers) every night. You need your bullpen every night. You can't hide it. The Phillies continue to lose these games in the middle innings.

In the five games against the Fish and O's, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.33 ERA. The bullpen has an 8.05 ERA ... which is actually lower than the bullpen's overall ERA this season. The Phillies' offense has averaged 5.6 runs, homered eight times and has an OPS in the mid-.800s in those five games. It's not at all on the offense, which last season averaged more than 5.5 runs per game against the Marlins and lost the series. The Phillies have already lost games this season when scoring six and nine runs. Even the two times the Phils scored double-digit runs, they had to sweat it out a bit, allowing seven and eight.

That late-season seven-game series in Miami will be another challenge. Because of the postponements, the Phillies will end up playing seven of the 10 games against the Marlins on the road, even if they'll spend a few as the home team in a road park. That seven-game series is smack-dab in the middle of a stretch when the Phillies play 33 games in 29 days. Some of these guys will be running on fumes. Think of how frequently Hector Neris will have to appear in games for the Phillies to hold on to victories.

The Phillies went 33-29 last season against teams under .500. That's OK but not good enough and certainly not an indicator of a contending team. The Marlins and Orioles are actually both over .500 right now, as is every team the Phillies have faced so far. 

More than one-fifth of the Phillies' season is complete and they are 5-8. You simply need to play .500 baseball to make the playoffs this season. The top two teams in each division, plus the teams with the next two best records in each league make the postseason in this year's 16-team field. Right now, the final team in the NL would be the Brewers at 7-9. The final AL team would be the Indians at 10-9.

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