Phillies

Phillies open September with a loss as starting pitching is tailing off

Phillies open September with a loss as starting pitching is tailing off

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Starting pitching was the reason the Phillies got out to a fast start this season and why they entered September just two games out of the NL East lead.

But the starting pitching has been tailing off. Zach Eflin, who was 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA in his first 11 starts, struggled again Saturday, allowing four runs (three earned) to the Cubs over five innings.

Eflin has a 5.51 ERA over his last nine starts. The Phillies have gone 2-7. 

On Saturday, the Cubs jumped him in the first inning, going double-single-groundout-double to plate two runs. 

The Phillies' offense couldn't generate much against soft-tossing righty Kyle Hendricks in an eventual 7-1 loss.

"I really struggled with my command, particularly my fastball," Eflin said. "Kind of been the common denominator the last three outings, fastball command. When I've tried to get it in on guys I've been coming over the middle of the plate.

"It's fixable."

The Phils are 72-63. The loss followed their only two-game winning streak in the last two weeks. 

Help from the Pirates?

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the Braves scored four on the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth for a comeback 5-3 win.

The Phillies are three games back, but Atlanta's schedule only gets tougher from here.

Need more than just Nola

The last eight cycles through the rotation, the Phillies are a combined 5-11 when Eflin and Nick Pivetta have started. They're 14-19 when anyone other than Aaron Nola has started.

This is an issue. Not necessarily an unexpected issue given that Eflin, Pivetta and Vince Velasquez have never pitched more than 165 innings in a season. 

Eflin is at 131 innings after Saturday's start. His career high at any level was 131⅔ at Double A in 2015.

"Not his crispest performance but he battled," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Getting him through five innings under these circumstances in September was the right amount.

"Chasing down the National League East title is not going to be based on whether our starting pitchers are sharp down the stretch, I think it's going to be our entire club playing together and everyone taking those small steps forward that we talked about in spring training.

"I don't think you can isolate it to one bucket of our team." 

Lineup change

Gabe Kapler shuffled the top of his order, moving Carlos Santana into the leadoff spot and dropping Cesar Hernandez to ninth.

For Cesar, it was time. 

He entered Saturday hitting .254, exactly 40 points lower than in 2017 or 2016. Hernandez, who went 0 for 3, is 45 for 200 since July 1. That's a .225 batting average. 

At .359, the OBP is still high, but he just hasn't generated much offense or energy atop the lineup in months. Time for Roman Quinn to get a nice look there.

Santana went 2 for 4 out of the leadoff spot. 

The Phillies' only run scored was on a Nick Williams RBI single up the middle in the fourth inning.

Up next

The Phillies and Cubs wrap it up tomorrow afternoon at 1:35. 

It's another great pitching matchup involving Aaron Nola, with Nola taking on Jon Lester.

Nola is 15-3 with a 2.10 ERA. Fellow Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom is at 1.68 and Max Scherzer is at 2.22.

Lester is 14-5 with a 3.67 ERA.

Cole Hamels requests a jersey patch that honors David Montgomery

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Cole Hamels requests a jersey patch that honors David Montgomery

CHICAGO – When the City of Philadelphia dedicated a Roxborough ball field in David Montgomery’s honor in November, Cole Hamels was there.

Montgomery’s passing earlier this month hit Hamels hard. Montgomery was Phillies club president when the pitcher was drafted by the club in 2002 and the two rode together down Broad Street after the Phils won the World Series in 2008. Hamels, of course, was MVP of that series.

Hamels still does charitable work in Philadelphia. He has credited Montgomery for igniting that charitable spirit in him. 

The Phillies are wearing a patch with the initials DPM on the right sleeve of their game jerseys in honor of Montgomery.

Though Hamels now pitches for the Chicago Cubs and has not worn a Phillies jersey since July 2015 when he was traded to Texas, a piece of him remains with the club and a piece of Montgomery remains in his heart. That’s why Hamels reached out to Greg Casterioto of the Phillies communications department and asked if he could get one of the patches when the Phillies traveled to Chicago. Chris Ware of the Phillies communications department plans to catch up with Hamels before Thursday's series finale and deliver the patch.

Hamels started against the Phillies on Wednesday night. It was the first time he’d ever pitched against his old club and it came in the same ballpark where he last pitched for the Phils. Who could forget that storybook close to Hamels’ time with the Phillies – a no-hitter against the Cubs on July 25, 2015?

It was just one of the memories that Hamels took from Philadelphia. Others, of course, included the 2008 World Series title and his relationship with David Montgomery. Hamels will soon have a tangible memory of that bond.

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Cubs fans are back to hating on Bryce Harper — so no souvenir for you!

Cubs fans are back to hating on Bryce Harper — so no souvenir for you!

CHICAGO — Fans in the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field gave Bryce Harper the business Tuesday night.

So he gave it right back to them.

After recording the final putout of the sixth inning, he turned to the fans as if he was going to toss them a nice souvenir.

Then he fired the ball over everything and right out of the ballpark.

No souvenir for you!

“Hopefully I didn’t hit a cop or something down below,” Harper said in the clubhouse on Wednesday. “I didn’t even see where it went. I just threw it, acting like we had a third-deck in Philly. It’s all fun.”

Harper hears it everywhere he goes. It comes with the territory when you’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old, sign a $330 million contract a decade later and carry yourself with a confident swagger.

Harper can handle it.

“Everyone is usually pretty mean,” he said. “There’s some mean stuff. You have your fans. Some people take it over the line and some people just yell the same stuff. It’s usually the same stuff. No one really comes up with anything that clever.”

What did he hear Tuesday night that made him troll the fans at Wrigley?

“Same old stuff,” he said. “They were really nice last year because they wanted me. You know? They were nice to me, but now they’re back to not.”

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