CINCINNATI -- Flush it.Phillies right fielder Nick Williams stood in front of his locker Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, reflecting on a disappointing weekend. It included three consecutive losses to the Reds, capped by Sunday's 4-0 defeat. The Phillies had arrived Thursday a first-place team in the National
CINCINNATI -- Flush it.
Phillies right fielder Nick Williams stood in front of his locker Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, reflecting on a disappointing weekend. It included three consecutive losses to the Reds, capped by Sunday's 4-0 defeat. The Phillies had arrived Thursday a first-place team in the National League East, recent winners of two out of three against the Dodgers and feeling more confident than ever about their chances to make the postseason for the first time since 2011. They smashed a franchise-record seven home runs Thursday in the series opener. They made a trade Friday to boost their lineup.
But then Friday, Saturday and Sunday happened.
The Phillies scored just six runs and managed just 19 hits in the final three games of the series. Their starters allowed 11 runs in 16 1/3 innings. Their lead over the Braves narrowed to 1 1/2 games, although it could have been worse. Atlanta lost three consecutive games before winning Sunday.
How does a young team bounce back from this, especially as it heads to Boston to play Monday and Tuesday against the Red Sox? The Red Sox have the best record in baseball. They are 37-14 at home.
"Just flush this," Williams said. "Go in there and grind out ABs, pitch by pitch for our defense and our pitchers, just play the game like we know how. This has happened before in San Fran. Tough times happen, but it's how you bounce back. It will be a sellout crowd, a new place for a lot of guys and it will be high adrenaline. We'll be ready to go."
"We've had stretches of not our best performance in the past," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "When that happens, I remind our guys that every great club goes through stretches -- and sometimes long stretches -- where you come out on the short end of the stick. So, I'll continue to spread that message."
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings to take the loss. But the offense never game him a chance. Reds right-hander Luis Castillo allowed just four hits in seven scoreless innings. He walked one and struck out nine.
The Phillies managed to load the bases with one out in the ninth inning, but Reds closer Raisel Iglesias struck out Scott Kingery and Andrew Knapp swinging to end the game.
"I think it's more the waves and the ebbs and flows of a baseball season," Kapler said. "You can click on some days. You don't click on others."
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola will face David Price on Monday. Jacob Arrieta will face Thomas Pomeranz on Tuesday.
It will be a good test for the Phillies.
"We know we perform very good against some of the best teams in baseball," Kapler said. "We've shown that, so we're excited to get to Boston and compete. Adding to that, we've got Noles on the mound tomorrow, which gives us a ton of confidence and Jake behind him. So, we've got the horses on the mound and feel confident going into this series. It's not daunting."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Phillies had leadoff singles in the second, third and fourth innings, but could not score. In fact, they only got one of those three baserunners to second base. And after Williams' leadoff single in the fourth, the Phillies did not get another hit until pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez's one-out double to right field in the eighth.
"We're a young team," Williams said. "We've gotten better at not letting things drag on. Me especially. In my past, I would let things carry on. I've learned you have to flush it. Sometimes it's not you. Sometimes you do have to tip your hat to the pitcher. Sometimes those guys are unhittable. We're a young team. We have a lot of positivity in the locker and we have fun. We just want to compete. We'll go out there and do our best."
Eflin is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in his last three starts. He has allowed five home runs in that span. He allowed just five home runs over 63 2/3 innings in his first 11 starts this season.
"I think I was one one or two pitches away from being able to go deep into the game with one run, but I think I kind of gave in a little with a pitch or two here," Eflin said. "I thought I had a really good fastball today and it was probably just the secondary stuff that I didn't have my best command with, more of my slider. I could've thrown more changeups, I could've thrown more curveballs looking back at it. It's just one of those games where you learn from it and just do a little better job of sequencing on the mound."
HE SAID IT
"They've got a good club… We didn't see [Aaron] Nola or [Jake] Arrieta, but the four guys we saw all threw very well. You could see why they're in first place with that pitching and a nice lineup like that. They're going to be tough. It's going to be tough for other clubs to overtake them." -- Reds manager Jim Riggleman
Nola (12-3, 2.42 ERA) faces Price (11-6, 4.17 ERA) on Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET in the first game of a two-game set at Fenway Park. Nola allowed three runs in five innings against the Dodgers on Tuesday in his first start after the All-Star break.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.