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Phils avoid sweep behind Eflin's 9-K gem

June 10, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies recalled their series-salvaging victory through a thick haze inside their clubhouse Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.It seemed like the Phillies let their fog machine run a little longer following a 4-3 victory over the Brewers. They could be forgiven for that. They have not used their

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies recalled their series-salvaging victory through a thick haze inside their clubhouse Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
It seemed like the Phillies let their fog machine run a little longer following a 4-3 victory over the Brewers. They could be forgiven for that. They have not used their laser lights or fog machine much the past couple of weeks. They have celebrated only four victories since they moved into first place in the National League East on May 26. Sunday's victory snapped a four-game losing streak, improving them to just 4-10 since they held first for a day.
"When you have a team that beats us twice in a row, you really kind of bear down," Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin said. "You want to make sure you limit your mistakes and put a stop to what's happening."
It helped that the Phillies offense manufactured its runs. The Phillies had just four hits, scoring their runs on two groundouts, a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk.
Good things can happen when the ball is put in play.
"We've been really focused on putting together better at-bats," Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp said. "You're not always going to get hits, but if you can get on base and work counts and make the defense make plays, that's how you get through stretches like this where maybe you're not getting as many hits or scoring as many runs as you want. I thought it was really good for us today to put those at-bats together and put pressure on the defense."
The Phillies hit .237 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage through May 26. They have hit .204 with a .282 on-base percentage and a .309 slugging percentage in 14 games since. They have struck out more and walked less in that 4-10 stretch.
The Phillies entered the game with an MLB-high 25.9 percent strikeout rate, putting them on pace for the highest strikeout rate in baseball history. They are on pace for 1,574 strikeouts, which would shatter the franchise record (1,417) set last season and edge the 2017 Brewers (1,571) for the most strikeouts in baseball history.
"We do strike out a lot, but that's just us," Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford said. "We do need to put the ball in play a lot more, I think. Everyone knows that, but we're not going to tell everyone that, because everyone already knows that."
Cesar Hernandez singled in the first inning and advanced to third on a throwing error from Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff. He scored on Rhys Hoskins' fielder's choice to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

The Phillies scored three runs in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. After Crawford hit a leadoff single and Knapp reached on an error. Eflin dropped a sacrifice bunt. Crawford got a great jump and beat the throw to third.
"I think that's probably the biggest moment of the game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.
Hernandez worked a bases-loaded walk to score Crawford and tie the game, Hoskins' sacrifice fly scored Knapp to hand the Phillies a 3-2 lead and Odubel Herrera's groundout to first scored Eflin to make it 4-2.

"You only get a few hits during the game, but you score runs because you move runners and you drive runners in from third base with less than two outs," Kapler said. "I thought that was well played all the way around."
Seranthony questions: Kapler said he prefers to use Seranthony Dominguez in high-leverage situations, so it raised questions when he faced the bottom of the lineup in the seventh. Dominguez gave up an RBI single in the eighth, then Luis Garcia ran into trouble after retiring the first two batters in the ninth. Tommy Hunter entered the game with runners on second and third, but got Christian Yelich to ground out to end the game.
"You might think because we're at the bottom of the order that might not be quite as high leverage," Kapler said. "But the idea that we're going to use [Dominguez] for two innings, we know he's probably going to face the middle of the lineup, too. We just felt like there was no time to deploy him like then. We just wanted to preserve that lead."

Eflin recovers: Eflin hit both Manny Pina and Eric Sogard with pitches to load the bases with one out in the fifth inning. The Brewers sent Hernan Perez to the plate to hit for Woodruff, sensing the game could be on the line. Perez struck out swinging for the second out, then Lorenzo Cain hit a ball off Eflin's right hand to score a run before Eflin walked Yelich to score another run to hand the Brewers a 2-1 lead. But Jesus Aguilar struck out looking to end the inning. It could have been much worse for Eflin, who then struck out the side in the sixth. Eflin allowed three hits, two runs, one walk and struck out a career-high nine in six innings.
"Extremely frustrated after the fifth, but being a starting pitcher you have to kind of swallow that and flush it down the toilet and come back out the next inning, and go right after them like I had been doing in the first four innings," Eflin said. "Being able to come back out and put an end to what they were starting in the fifth inning was crucial."

Hoskins has 14 go-ahead RBIs this season. Entering Sunday, only Chicago's Anthony Rizzo (15) and Colorado's Nolan Arenado (14) had 14 or more go-ahead RBIs in the National League.
Crawford singled to center field in the fifth and doubled to right-center field in the sixth. Statcast™ measured the exit velocity on those hits at 97.1 mph and 97.7 mph, respectively. Crawford entered the game with an average exit velocity of 85.9 mph on balls in play, which ranked 294th out of 355 players in baseball (minimum 50 plate appearances).
"I'm feeling good," Crawford said. "The confidence never dropped. I was just having some tough breaks. Today, I finally found some holes and found some open grass. Helped my team get a W."

"If you add pressure on it, that's just going to complicate your season. I have a lot of confidence in what I do and I have a lot of confidence in the guys. There's no saying if you leave Luis out there he punches him out on three pitches." -- Hunter, on facing Yelich with the game on the line 
He is the sixth Phillies pitcher to record a save this season.
After an off-day on Monday, the Phillies resume action Tuesday when they open a three-game series against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola (7-2, 2.35 ERA) faces Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (6-6, 5.66 ERA). Nola has allowed more than three runs in just one of 13 starts this season.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.