San Diego Padres

A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

As the Delaware Valley held its breath awaiting word of what happened to Bryce Harper, the Phillies again fell short against the Padres, losing 3-2 to close out a homestand that began with fireworks and ended with the excitement of a suburban dad mowing his lawn.

After sweeping the Cubs and winning a fourth straight game in the series opener vs. San Diego, the Phillies managed just five runs and 10 hits total in the final two losses.

This team ...

As for Harper, he is OK. He was suffering from blurred vision after the fourth inning and was forced to exit after five. The Phillies called it dehydration. Harper had an IV and was feeling better after the game. This was something he hadn't experienced before.

"An hour ago, I couldn't see in front of me," Harper said postgame, his eyes still sensitive to light.

He will be fine by Tuesday — good news because the Phillies are not going anywhere without him — when the quick two-game series at Fenway Park begins. 

Manager Gabe Kapler was happy Sunday with the quality of the Phillies' at-bats. He referenced the 110 pitches they made starter Joey Lucchesi throw and the 27 more they forced from closer Kirby Yates.

If a team is winning consistently or hitting consistently, maybe that kind of grind-it-out approach can make up for a loss or a series loss. But not as much when it's said about a team that hasn't been able to sustain momentum at any point this season, especially offensively. 

Sure, the Phillies made Lucchesi and Yates work. They also made an out in 18 of 23 plate appearances against them. 

The best example of the Phils' falling short on Sunday was Rhys Hoskins' 400-foot blast to the 401-foot sign in center field in the eighth inning. Padres centerfielder Manuel Margot raised his glove above his head and caught a ball that was a foot, maybe less, from going out and tying the game. In every game, you will find the sort of baseball randomness that impacts winning and losing. That deep, loud flyout was Sunday's example.

It was an 0-for-4 day for Hoskins atop the lineup, but ...

"Look, I feel great," said Hoskins, who is 1 for his last 24 and has hit .148 over his last 30 games.

"Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I'm seeing pitches. I'm seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason, things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do hit something, it's right at somebody. 

"That's baseball. Unfortunately, I know that's really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I've sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level."

Water has found its level with Harper and J.T. Realmuto, two of baseball's hottest hitters in the month of August. Had Hoskins also been going well at this time, just imagine the run totals or win streaks the Phillies could have run off. 

Instead, on Sunday they wasted a rare strong pitching performance from someone other than Aaron Nola. Jason Vargas limited the Padres to two runs over 5⅔ innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his four starts as a Phillie but the team is just 1-3 because it has scored a total of five runs with Vargas in the game in his four starts.

"If we keep pitching like we do and the bullpen keeps pitching like (it has), we've seen how hot we can get quickly," Hoskins said.

"We swept a good team in the Cubs. Obviously, disappointing to lose a series to the Padres, but we talked about this a couple nights ago — you could feel the difference in here this week. It just feels a little different. There's a little more swagger and a little more confidence. Tough loss today but we'll be all right."

The Phillies have 38 games left to make a run and end a playoff drought of seven years. Harper was surprised when it was relayed to him Sunday that no Phillies team since 1990 has had its longest winning streak last just four games.

"That's crazy," he said. "In the game now, you see (Jacob) deGrom for six and see somebody else out of the bullpen, four other guys, three other guys. The game has definitely changed. It's evolved.

"Hopefully we can break that a little bit and win five in a row. Why not?"

One reason to remain skeptical: The last two times the Phillies have won four in a row, they lost their next series to the Marlins and Padres. You just don't know which Phillies will team show up on a given day.

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Bryce Harper is OK, but Phillies' homestand ends in uninspiring fashion

Bryce Harper is OK, but Phillies' homestand ends in uninspiring fashion

BOX SCORE

Once Gabe Kapler came out of the Phillies' dugout after the fifth inning to tell the home plate umpire that he was replacing Bryce Harper with Adam Haseley, the result of Sunday's game became secondary for about an hour.

Fortunately for the Phils, their best player and second-hottest hitter likely will not miss any time. Harper was removed because of dehydration.

Harper has eight home runs and 18 RBI with an OPS over 1.000 in the month of August. There would never be a good time for the Phillies to lose him but now would have been especially damaging given his hot streak and their position in the wild-card race. Harper ranks third in the majors in home runs this month, trailing only Aristides Aquino and Ronald Acuna Jr.

The Phils lost Sunday, 3-2 to the Padres. San Diego arrived in South Philadelphia eight games under .500 but claimed the series by winning the final two games. 

The Phillies had surely hoped for better than a 4-2 homestand given the way the week began with four consecutive wins and some gaudy offensive performances.

The 64-60 Phils have a light week. They are off Monday, play two games in Boston, are off again Thursday and then finish off the quick trip with a three-game weekend series in Miami.

RISP woes continue

Even with the four straight wins and the big offensive performances earlier in the week, the Phillies still rank last in the National League since the All-Star break with a .228 batting average with runners in scoring position. They were 3 for 13 with RISP in the losses Saturday and Sunday. 

The difference in these two losses was that they couldn't pop the multi-run homer(s) they did against the Cubs.

The Phillies' only offensive standout Sunday was Jean Segura, who drove in both runs with a first-inning double and a sixth-inning double. Both came with two outs.

Rhys Hoskins came a foot short of tying the game in the eighth inning, flying out 400 feet to the 401-foot sign in straightaway center.

Another solid start from Vargas

Jason Vargas continues to give the Phillies quality innings. He pitched 5⅔ innings Sunday, allowing two runs on six hits. Both runs scored on Luis Urias' opposite-field home run, a cheapie.

Since joining the Phillies, Vargas has a 3.91 ERA and has allowed two runs or fewer in three of four starts. The Phillies just haven't done much hitting for him. They've scored a total of five runs with him in the game in those four starts.

More than dingers

Harper has been an impactful defensive rightfielder in his first year as a Phillie. He registered another outfield assist Sunday, his ninth of the season.

Catcher Austin Hedges, who had a career-high four hits, trickled a grounder down the first base line that went into right field and clanged off the half-wall in foul territory. Harper picked it up and fired to second base to nab Hedges.

Only once in his career, in 2013, has Harper had more outfield assists than he has already this season.

Up next

The Phillies are off Monday and Thursday this week. In between is a two-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Tuesday night at 7:10 — Aaron Nola (11-3, 3.56) vs. TBA

Wednesday night at 7:10 — LHP Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.09) vs. Rick Porcello (11-9, 5.49).

After Boston is a three-game series in Miami for the Phils.

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Phillies don't get enough from Zach Eflin, offense as winning streak ends in loss to Padres

Phillies don't get enough from Zach Eflin, offense as winning streak ends in loss to Padres

The Phillies’ winning streak was stopped at four games in a 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night. The Phillies have not won five straight games all season.

Right-hander Zach Eflin returned to the rotation and could not hold a 3-0 lead. He twice was one strike away from getting out of the fourth inning, but allowed a pair of hits after being up 0-2 in the count and that led to three San Diego runs, and the Padres pulled ahead with a couple of runs against ineffective Nick Pivetta in the fifth.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the second on doubles by Jean Segura and Scott Kingery and a single by Eflin. Smokin’ hot J.T. Realmuto homered in the third. But the Phils did not score after that as San Diego right-hander Dinelson Lamet delivered six innings of three-run ball.

The loss dropped the Phillies to a game out of the second wild-card spot in the National League. The Phils are 64-59.

Eflin’s night

Eflin was the Phillies’ most consistent starter over the first two months of the season and their least consistent in July. That led to his being moved to the bullpen for three weeks.

Jake Arrieta’s season-ending elbow injury forced the Phillies to put Eflin back in the rotation and he did not fare all that well in his first start since July 27.

Eflin pitched scoreless ball for the first three innings and enjoyed a 3-0 lead but could not get out of the fourth inning and allowed three runs.

Trouble putting hitters away

All of the Padres’ runs in the third inning came with two outs. Eflin had Lamet, the opposing pitcher, down 0-2 in the count and could not put him away. Lamet kept the inning alive with a full-count single on a four-seam fastball. Eflin then had Manuel Margot, 0-2, and gave up an RBI single. He then gave up a two-run double to Josh Naylor on a 2-2 four-seamer. Eflin had been ahead in that count, 1-2, but could not put Naylor away.

Second time not a charm

It was not surprising to see Eflin open with three scoreless frames. Entering the game, he’d held opposing hitters to a .213 batting average the first time through the order. Opponents had been hitting .363 the second time through. Clearly, opposing hitters are getting better looks at Eflin as the game goes on. Eflin has not pitched more than four innings in four of his last five starts. He hit a wall in the fourth inning on July 20 in Pittsburgh and left that game after four innings with “heavy legs.” Eflin is going to have to figure out a way to build more endurance over the winter. In the meantime, he needs to pitch deeper into games the remainder of this season because the Phils are thin on starting pitching and innings in their rotation and he has too much talent to be such a middling starter.

Different approach

Eflin threw 73 pitches, including 27 sinkers. That 37 percent mark was his highest of the season. He’d really de-emphasized the pitch recently, but featured it often in this one and had some success with it in the first three innings.

Eflin allowed seven hits in 3 2/3 innings only got one swing and miss in 73 pitches.

Offense slows down

After 35 hits and 26 runs in the previous three games, all with Charlie Manuel in the dugout as hitting coach, the Phils were held to just six hits.

Rhys Hoskins returned to the starting lineup -- he did not start Friday because of a sore hand – and went 0 for 3. He is 6 for 57 (.105) in his last 17 games.

Bryce Harper proved human by going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

Realmuto stayed hot. He has eight homers and 21 RBIs in his last 22 games. 

Up next

The two teams meet again in the series finale Sunday afternoon. Jason Vargas (6-6, 4.03) opposes Joey Lucchesi (7-7, 4.25) in a matchup of lefties.

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