A brilliant start to the weekend quickly turned sour as our Philadelphia Phillies (45-55) dropped the final two games of the series at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates (51-47).
Friday’s opener featured one of the best performances by a Phillies starter this season, as Zach Eflin tossed a complete game three-hit shutout in a 4-0 win. He struck out six and didn’t walk anyone in a truly dazzling performance. Eflin’s been on a roll since getting knocked around in his debut, and has now lowered his ERA to 3.40 and is one of only seven pitchers in the majors with multiple complete games this season.
The offense did enough off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole to get the job done. Odubel Herrera started to get his swing back with a three hit game. Maikel Franco left the game after being hit by a pitch in the 4th after being hit by a pitch on his left wrist earlier in the game, but Andres Blanco picked him up, going 2-2 with an RBI to kick off what would end up being a great series for him. Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp also had two-hit games, with Rupp picking up all three of the other RBI, thanks in part to an insurance-providing two-run homer in the 9th that put the game well out of reach for Pittsburgh.
Game two started out as a seesaw battle before the Phillies imploded in the 5th en route to a 7-4 loss. Tommy Joseph got the Phils on the board first with an RBI single in the 1st inning, but starter Aaron Nola gave that run right back in the bottom half. It was the same story in the 2nd– this time Cesar Hernandez picking up an RBI to make it 2-1 before the Pirates tied in right back up in the bottom of the inning. Hernandez picked up another RBI single in the 5th to give the Phillies their third lead of the game, but this time Pittsburgh would answer with more than a single run. Two walks and two singles would chase Nola from the game, and Severino Gonzalez didn’t fare much better, hitting a batter and giving up a single and a sac fly as the Pirates ultimately plated five runs in the inning. Blanco would pick up an RBI in the 6th, but the Phillies went quietly the rest of the way leading to the rubber match on Sunday.
Game three was similar to game two, as the Phillies held the lead three separate times in a back-and-forth affair but ultimately dropped a 5-4 decision. Blanco opened scoring in the first with a solo home run, but unfortunately broke his left index finger later in the game after taking a spike on a Pittsburgh slide into 3rd base. According to Phillies.com, he is likely headed to the DL. Fortunately, Franco was able to take his spot and return to the series after his injury on Friday.
Phillies starter Vince Velasquez seemed to have pretty good stuff on Sunday, but struggled with control and ultimately was unable to hold leads, giving up four earned runs over six innings. He struck out five and walked four while the Pirates scattered seven hits. After falling behind 2-1 in the 2nd, the Phillies answered with a pair of RBI from Hernandez and Herrera to retake the lead, and Herrera homered in the 6th to make it 4-2, which seemed like it would be enough for a good chance at a win with how Velasquez was pitching at the time.
The Pirates answered quick in the bottom of the 6th though, as a leadoff double followed by a homer from Matt Joyce quickly tied the game back up. In the 7th, it was Adam Frazier‘s first major league home run that would end being the game winner for Pittsburgh, coming off Edubray Ramos, who ultimately took the loss. The Phillies threatened with two on and one out in the 8th, but poor at bats by Galvis and Cody Asche ended that threat. After a rain delay in the bottom half, the Phillies went down in order in the 9th and just like that the series was over.
- The All-Star break really seems to have occurred at an inopportune time for our Phillies. After starting July with a 6-4 record, they’re now 3-7 over the last 10 games since the break.
- Rupp was hit in the head during Saturday’s game and was on the bench Sunday, but fortunately all x-rays and concussion tests game back negative.
- Baserunning was a big theme throughout the series. The Phillies stole five bases on Saturday for the first time since 2009, but were picked off twice in costly situations on Sunday, which has been a recurring problem all season with this team.
- LOB– The Phillies left 29 men on base over the course of the series. That’s just not going to cut it. They were able to get to the Pittsburgh pitchers for the most part, but just couldn’t put together the big inning. The baserunning mistakes, combined with giving up the long ball and going hitless with RISP on Sunday ultimately cost them this series.
The road trip continues as the Phillies head to Miami to kick off a three game series on Monday. Game one features our Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84 ERA) facing off against Jarred Cosart (0-1, 7.98 ERA). It’ll be Cosart’s first big league start since being sent down to AAA on April 22. First pitch is set for 7:10 EDT.