With Bryce Harper out of the Phillies' lineup for the first time all season, the Phillies had their weakest offensive performance of the season, mustering just three baserunners — two singles and a double — in a 2-0 loss to the Diamondbacks (see observations).
The Phillies' loss, coupled with the Braves’ 8-7 win in 11 innings, put Atlanta a game ahead and in sole possession first place for the first time all season.
The Phillies were careful, at least outwardly, about looking past the D-backs to the Braves and this weekend's divisional showdown. On Wednesday, they failed to solve 30-year-old right-hander Merrill Kelly, who has allowed just two runs over his last 22⅓ innings.
The lack of offense wasted Zach Eflin's eight-inning gem, which was filled with weak contact and saw Eflin match his career high with nine strikeouts.
Eflin is a mild-mannered guy who doesn't get very high after a good start. He showed a little fire, though, talking after the game about the Phillies' recent stretch of below-average baseball. They've lost eight of 13.
"It's all about how you respond to it," he said. "How much does it piss you off, how much does it make you wanna go out and kick someone's ass? We're gonna be just fine. Just one of those rough patches every team goes through."
The Phillies have fallen short of expectations at the plate this season. They've been a middle-of-the-pack offense, ranking 15th in the majors in runs scored. They rank 20th in home runs and 18th in slugging percentage. This was believed to be one of the majors' deepest lineups, but to this point, it hasn't played out that way.
An interesting exercise is to ask yourself who the Phillies' best hitter has been this season. It's not an easy answer. There's been solid play from guys like Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Harper, but none that really jumps off the page.
"I think we're going to hit home runs," manager Gabe Kapler said after the loss. "I guess if you just look at a third of the season, would I have expected that's where we'd rank? Probably not. Do I expect us to rank there at the end of the season? I don't. I think we have power up and down the lineup. We have guys who have a history of hitting home runs. I expect that trend to continue.
"I think we have better baseball in us than this recent stretch of games. We have more consistent baseball in us than this recent stretch of games. We have to play better in order to beat teams like the Braves and the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. These are very good teams."
Realmuto took this one hard, that the Phillies couldn't support a pitcher who was dealing the way Eflin was. Eflin has been the Phillies' best and most consistent starting pitcher this season but the Phils have scored a grand total of 10 runs in his last five starts, which won't win any pitcher many games.
"It's more frustrating from an offensive standpoint when you've got a guy battling like that on the mound and we weren't able to do anything for him and put any runs across the board," Realmuto said. "I can't say enough about the way he pitched today so it's definitely frustrating when they do get a couple runs and it's on weak contact like that. It happens. It's just baseball."
Kapler has some things to figure out atop the lineup. Cesar Hernandez is not effective right now out of the leadoff spot. He is 5 for 50 over his last 13 games and has a .222 OBP since replacing Andrew McCutchen in the leadoff spot.
Kapler acknowledged postgame that a little shakeup is under consideration. It could involve Roman Quinn, who is likely to be activated this weekend in Atlanta.
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