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Phils rue wild pitch as Dodgers take late lead

Franco homers twice; Hoskins, Herrera go deep back-to-back
July 23, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- Jorge Alfaro stood at his locker in the Phillies' clubhouse late Monday night with sweat still dripping from his forehead. After a ninth-inning wild pitch grazed his glove to give the Dodgers a lead in the Phillies' 7-6 loss at Citizens Bank Park, he spoke with an intensity

PHILADELPHIA -- Jorge Alfaro stood at his locker in the Phillies' clubhouse late Monday night with sweat still dripping from his forehead. After a ninth-inning wild pitch grazed his glove to give the Dodgers a lead in the Phillies' 7-6 loss at Citizens Bank Park, he spoke with an intensity that he does not always display.
"I should catch it," Alfaro said. "That's it."
Was the pitch sinking away, as Seranthony Dominguez's stuff often does?
"No," Alfaro said. "I should catch that ball there or at least keep it in front, and I mean, I don't know what else I can say about it. I give my best to the team. What else I can do? It happened. We just have to let that go. We have two more games to win the series."

Alfaro's passion aligned with the heightened atmosphere that permeated the ballpark as two first-place teams clashed in Chase Utley's final homecoming. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera mashed back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to give the Phillies the lead. Manager Gabe Kapler deployed Dominguez -- his best reliever -- in the ninth inning of a tie game. He walked three and allowed a hit, because of what he said was an inability to locate his fastball.
Not only was it a rare lack of command from Dominguez, but it was a costly night for a bullpen that has been baseball's best for nearly a month. Entering Monday, no 'pen had a better ERA than the Phillies' 2.39 since June 30. But Yacksel Rios and Tommy Hunter each allowed a run. Luis Garcia, who surrendered Matt Kemp's RBI single that gave the Dodgers a two-run advantage, couldn't clean up Dominguez's mess.

"I think nights like this happen sometimes," Dominguez said. "Pitchers sometimes don't have their best stuff every day, but I'm going to keep working hard and I'm very confident."
Eight days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, night's like Monday highlight the decisions general manager Matt Klentak faces. He must balance brilliant flashes with inconsistency, recent success with a larger sample size. The Phillies will be buyers in the next week, but what and who they are shopping for are not certain.
The Phillies could pursue Orioles lefty closer Zach Britton. There will be other options, like the Rangers' Jake Diekman, too. They could pursue a rotation upgrade -- the Phillies had scouts at starts for Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels in Texas, Tigers left-hander Francisco Liriano in Kansas City and Marlins right-hander Jose Urena in Miami -- although Klentak said Friday he would prefer to stay out of the starting pitching market considering the rotation is why the Phillies currently share a spot atop the National League East.

The addition of a bat seems necessary, but the play of Maikel Franco has blurred that situation as well. When he was relegated to a bench role last month, a deal for the Royals Mike Moustakas seemed like an ideal fit. Now, with his two-home run performance Monday night, Franco has reached safely in 15 of his past 16 games, batting .339 with five home runs in that span.
Phillies fan catches Franco's second homer with his baby in tow
Franco has made the Phillies think. He nearly helped them tie the game again with a solo shot off Kenley Jansen in the ninth. After a disappointing top of the frame, that wasn't enough.
"Extremely tough loss," Kapler said, "but I'm really, really proud of the way our guys fought tooth and nail, battled."

Eflin struggles: The Dodgers chased Zach Eflin after 2 2/3 innings, his shortest start since pitching the same length in his nine-run Major League debut in Toronto in June 2016. He lacked command from the get-go, allowing solo home runs to Player Page for Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal and Chris Taylor the first time through the order.
"It was just one of those games where I didn't really have anything going," Eflin said. "My timing was kind of messed up; I just couldn't get into a rhythm. I couldn't really throw any offspeed pitches for strikes, let alone my fastballs for strikes. I was falling behind guys, was 2-0 on probably almost every hitter. Just one of those games where you just kind of swallow and move on to the next."

Back-to-back: The Phillies managed just three hits against Dodgers starter Thomas Stripling before the four-run fifth inning changed the game. Alfaro knocked a one out single to get the rally started. Jesmuel Valentin's double put two runners on, Hoskins' three-run home run tied the game and Herrera put the Phillies ahead five pitches later with the club's second instance of back-to-back home runs this season.
"The Rhys home run, the Odubel home run, created playoff-like atmosphere in that ballpark," Kapler said. "The momentum shifted in our direction, and I think we all felt like we could win that baseball game and we were in a position to win that baseball game."

Franco became the fourth Phillies hitter to slug at least 15 home runs this season, joining Herrera, Hoskins and Carlos Santana. Only the Yankees have more players with at least 15 home runs.
Utley lofted a blooper into shallow center field in the sixth inning. Herrera made a diving catch to snag the ball just before it hit the grass. It was Herrera's second five-star catch this season; He had to cover 66 feet in 3.9 seconds for a 22 percent catch probability.

"That's a very good young ballclub. They fight, they're tough, they're scrappy, they're gritty. Everything, for me personally, I respect in a ballclub, and they can really pitch. Franco, Herrera, Hoskins -- Santana's been through the fire many years. They're not afraid of the big moment." -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts
Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.30 ERA) makes his first start since throwing a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game last week as the Phillies play host to the Dodgers for a 7:05 p.m. ET contest at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. In May, Nola outdueled Clayton Kershaw by allowing one run over seven innings at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers will start right hander Kenta Maeda (7-5, 3.12), who owns a 1.42 ERA in his final four starts before the break.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for based in Philadelphia.