Minnesota Twins

Phillies 2, Twins 1: Zach Eflin tosses a gem and Rhys Hoskins' home run saves the day

Phillies 2, Twins 1: Zach Eflin tosses a gem and Rhys Hoskins' home run saves the day

BOX SCORE 

Rhys Hoskins belted the go-ahead home run and Zach Eflin pitched a gem one day before his 25th birthday to lead the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Phillies took two of three in the interleague series to improve to 6-2.

Hoskins' third homer of the season, a two-run shot capping a tremendous at-bat, came with two outs in the sixth.

Eflin pitched seven innings of one-run ball to go to 2-0.

Relievers David Robertson, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris combined for the final six outs to close out the one-run victory. Neris got the final three outs for the save.

The keys

• Hoskins’ at-bat in the bottom of the sixth against Minnesota starter Jose Berrios was a magnificent nine-pitch battle in which the Phillies’ cleanup man fouled off three full-count offerings before planting a breaking ball in the flower boxes in left-center.

Berrios gave up just two hits in six innings.

• Manager Gabe Kapler showed confidence in Eflin in sending him back to the mound for the top of the seventh inning. Eflin was at 95 pitches, but had ended the previous inning with a strikeout on a 95-mph fastball. Pitching with a one-run lead thanks to Hoskins’ homer, Eflin responded with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to end his day. Kapler’s decision to stick with Eflin is the kind of move that builds confidence in a pitcher and pays dividends down the road.

• Andrew McCutchen has debuted brilliantly at the plate and on the base paths with his new club. He added defense to the mix in this game by cutting down a run at the plate with a great throw in the fourth inning. In a one-run contest, it was a game changer and the crowd of 39,735 gave him a standing ovation.

Eflin’s day

The right-hander allowed a leadoff homer to Max Kepler (he homered in all three games of the series) but pitched shutout ball the rest of the way. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out five.

Eflin has been the Phillies’ best starter so far. In two outings, he has given up just one run over 12 innings. He has walked one, struck out 14 and allowed nine hits.

Health check

Roman Quinn had three hits, including a homer, a walk and three runs scored for Single A Clearwater on Saturday. Quinn missed extensive time in spring training with an oblique strain. It would not be surprising to see him back with the big club sometime this week.

The Phils face a tough decision in making room for Quinn, who is out of minor-league options. Aaron Altherr is also out of minor-league options and the Phils are likely to lose him (and the centerfield depth he provides) if they try to sneak him through waivers. Nick Williams does have options, but he’s a valuable left-handed power threat off the bench. Stay tuned.

Up next

The Phillies open a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night. Vince Velasquez makes his first start of the season in the opener against Nats’ right-hander Anibal Sanchez. Aaron Nola pitches Tuesday night against Stephen Strasburg and Nick Pivetta closes it out Wednesday night against Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phils split a two-game series with Washington last week.

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Twins 6, Phillies 2: Offense finally dries up in 1st home loss

Twins 6, Phillies 2: Offense finally dries up in 1st home loss

BOX SCORE 

After leading the majors with an average of over eight runs in their first six games, the Phillies were held to a season-low total in a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.

The Phillies left the bases loaded in a one-run game in the bottom of the eighth inning before the Twins blew it open in the ninth.

Jake Arrieta took the loss and early-season concerns about important reliever Seranthony Dominguez continued to mount.

The defeat, in front of the third sellout crowd of the young season, was the Phils’ first in five home games.

The Phils are 5-2. Minnesota is also 5-2.

The keys

• Minnesota feasted on three mistakes by Arrieta in the third inning. First, Arrieta wild-pitched a run home then he allowed back-to-back solo homers on a pair of sliders, one that caught too much plate and the other that hung.

• Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs on a single by Jean Segura, a hustle double by Bryce Harper and a walk to Rhys Hoskins. Odubel Herrera got one run home with a sacrifice fly, but the Twins’ defense kept the tying run off the board when centerfielder Byron Buxton gunned down Harper at the plate as he tried to score on a fly ball to not-so-deep center. The throw was up the line, but Twins catcher Willians Astudillo was able to make the play on a leaping Harper.

• Down a run in the eighth, the Phillies loaded the bases on two infield hits and a walk, setting up Cesar Hernandez with a chance to change the game. Hernandez fell behind 0-2 to Minnesota lefty Taylor Rogers then grounded out to first base to end the Phillies’ last best threat.

Arrieta’s day

The veteran right-hander failed in his bid for big-league win No. 100 as his mates did not provide enough offense to overcome his poor third inning.

Arrieta battled through seven innings, but he didn’t fool many hitters. He got just one swinging strike and survived a lot of hard contact while registering just one strike out.

Seranthony’s struggles

Projected bullpen stud Dominguez has had a rough go of it in the early season. He could not keep the game close in the ninth inning. He allowed a walk, a hit batsman and a three-run homer as the Twins pulled away.

The home run, by lefty hitter Eddie Rosario, came on a 95-mph fastball that had late cutting action. Dominguez has yet to consistently show the fastball thunder that he did as a rookie last year.

Cutch up

Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first inning with a double, but was stranded at third base. In the first seven games, McCutchen has reached base four times leading off. He has a homer, a double, a single and a walk in those situations.

Lineup tweak

After using the same lineup for the first six games, Gabe Kapler made a slight adjustment and used Andrew Knapp behind the plate. J.T. Realmuto entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.

Up next

The two teams play the series finale Sunday afternoon at 1. Zach Eflin looks to build on a strong start in Washington. He will go against Twins right-hander Jose Berrios.

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Phillies are 5-1 because their offense is relentless

Phillies are 5-1 because their offense is relentless

Four hours before the scheduled first pitch, Phillies officials were strongly considering postponing Friday night’s game and playing a separate-admission doubleheader on Saturday. That’s how bad the weather forecast was.

The Phils rolled the dice that they could get the game in and it paid off. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was wet. Yes, it was downright miserable. But everyone left happy when the Phils scored a 10-4 win over the Minnesota Twins at Citizens Bank Park (see observations).

“It was really rough out there,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was cold. And it was just a consistent wet. I know the outfielders were having some trouble seeing the ball.”

The teams played through a relentless rain for the first five innings.

And you know what else was relentless?

The Phillies’ offense.

Check it out: The Phils have played six games. They are 5-1. They have scored at least eight runs five times and reached double digits twice. Not since 1898, when Ed Delahanty and Nap Lajoie were smacking it around for the local nine, have the Phils opened a season by scoring at least five runs in each of their first six games.

“(Bench coach) Rob Thomson and I were talking about it on the bench,” Kapler said. “He looked at me toward the end of the game and he said, 'Man, this offense can grind you down.' That's a good description of what our guys have done thus far.”

The Phillies’ ability to score runs has started with the way they are seeing pitches, wearing down pitchers and getting on base. They are averaging over 6.5 walks per game. They had nine on Friday night. They saw 192 pitches, including 36 from Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi. The Phils knocked Odorizzi out in the first inning and that’s always a good way to start a three-game series because of the effect it can have on an opponent’s bullpen.

“The story tonight is 192 pitches,” Kapler said. “The league average is 140-ish. That's what we've done the entire season. We've grinded down pitchers. We've gotten big hits. It's the deep counts. It's the walks. It's the great at-bats that have carried us thus far.”

Cleanup hitter Rhys Hoskins had a big game with three singles, a walk and four RBIs. He personally saw 36 pitches.

No opposing starting pitcher has gone more than five innings against this Phillies’ offense.

“That’s very encouraging,” Hoskins said. “We had a lot of that last year, too, especially towards the beginning. We also brought in some pretty good hitters, especially Andrew McCutchen at the top, taking at-bats like he does, leading off a game, leading off an inning, and it’s pretty contagious.

“Our lineup is just really deep. Guys are taking professional at-bats every time through a lineup and that wears on a pitcher. You take walks. Good things usually happen when you have guys on base all the time.”

And on the bases, these Phillies are aggressive.

For instance, Hoskins had a rare three-run single in the seventh inning, all because Bryce Harper capitalized on some slow play in the Minnesota outfield and scored from first base.

If Hoskins finishes with 100 RBIs, he can thank Harper for being aggressive.

“That was outstanding,” Hoskins said. “We had great base running all game. That’s just baseball instincts. You can’t teach that. I asked (third base coach) Dusty Wathan if he sent him and he didn’t. That was just all Bryce. It was fun in all facets of the game today.”

Hoskins needed to have some fun. He made a costly eighth-inning error in Wednesday’s one-run loss at Washington. Without that error, the Phillies might be 6-0.

But 5-1 ain’t too shabby.

“That’s baseball,” Hoskins said. “The beautiful part about this game is you usually get put in the same situations right away. So being able to have a short memory helps. All I was thinking about was today and a new opportunity.”

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