Phillies

Zach Eflin is important so the Phillies are going to need more than this down the stretch

Zach Eflin is important so the Phillies are going to need more than this down the stretch

If the Phillies are going to live to play a little October baseball this season, they’re going to have to jump on the No. 41 train — that’s Charlie Manuel’s uniform number — and hit their way there.

Despite the need to out-hit other clubs, the Phillies are still going to have nights when they need their pitching to lead the way. This was one of those nights. After four big nights and as many wins, the offense was sluggish Saturday night. The Phillies needed their pitching to carry them and it didn’t happen. The result was a 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres and the end of a four-game winning streak. The Phillies, who are a game out of the second NL wild-card spot, have not won five in a row all season (see observations).

Zach Eflin, back in the rotation after a three-week demotion to the bullpen, showed a change in pitching style and opened the game with three shutout innings. He even had a base hit in the second inning to help the Phils build a 3-0 lead.

But Eflin could not hold that lead in the fourth inning and he lost it in a rather disturbing way: He gave up three two-out runs after twice being one strike away from getting out of the inning.

“Horrible,” Eflin said. “I did a bad job of putting guys away in two-strike situations.”

With two outs in the fourth and a man on first base, Eflin was ahead of the opposing pitcher, Dinelson Lamet, 0-2. He ended up allowing a full-count hit to extend the inning. Manuel Margot then had an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch before Josh Naylor tied the game with a two-run double on a 1-2 pitch.

“They were big,” manager Gabe Kapler said of those killer two-strike hits. “We want to be able to put people away whenever we can. It’s difficult. We want to execute pitches in those situations and give ourselves a chance to stay in the ballgame.”

Eflin did not make it out of the fourth inning. Nick Pivetta gave up two runs in the fifth and took the loss.

The Phillies’ bats produced just six hits after getting 35 the previous three nights.

Eflin has always been a guy who likes to throw his sinker and get early contact. For much of this season, however, he’s thrown a high percentage of four-seam fastballs. Team officials stress that pitch, executed up in the zone, to get swing and misses and counteract hitters who look to launch the ball and Eflin has had some success with that style of pitching this season.

But July was a tough month for Eflin. He had trouble getting through the middle innings, was hit hard and eventually demoted to the bullpen. He threw no more than 12 percent sinkers in any of his final four starts before being sent to the bullpen in late July. He moved back to the rotation after Jake Arrieta’s injury and threw 37 percent sinkers Saturday night.

Though he did not pitch deep into the game, Eflin wants to continue to feature his sinker in upcoming starts.

“We’ll have a discussion about it, but I see no reason why I shouldn’t throw more sinkers,” Eflin said. “Especially if I’m trying to go deep into games.

“I don’t care about swing and misses. I care about outs and going as deep as I can in games and putting the team in the best possible chance to win the game. I think swing and misses are a plus when you can do it. I’m not saying they’re not important, but I think it’s definitely more important to get guys out with fewer pitches as opposed to just going for the swing and miss every single pitch. It also takes a toll on your body so for me it’s more important to stay in the game as long as I can, get weak contact and when a guy is on first base get a double play. And there’s always going to be an opportunity for swing and miss.”

With Arrieta out, Eflin knows he’s important. He has a lot of talent. He was the Phillies’ best pitcher over the first two months of the season. He pitched two complete games in a span of three starts from April 28 to May 11. It’s in there and the Phillies need it to come out more than ever now. Maybe featuring his bread-and-butter sinker will help. Time will tell.

“It’s my job to come in and fill a role and put up zeroes and put the team in the best position to win, so I’m really looking forward to building my pitch count up and feeling like a starter again,” Eflin said.

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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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