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Phils can't add after Hoskins' 7th HR in 8 games

Tough luck plagues Philly defense in Reds' go-ahead sixth inning
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CINCINNATI -- The Phillies sent a top pitching prospect to the Mets on Friday because they needed more pop from their offense.

They managed just four hits Saturday night in a 6-2 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park, but the first-place Phillies maintained a 2 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East because Atlanta lost again to the Dodgers. The Phillies now need to win Sunday afternoon's series finale to split the four-game series against the Reds, who are in last place in the NL Central.

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CINCINNATI -- The Phillies sent a top pitching prospect to the Mets on Friday because they needed more pop from their offense.

They managed just four hits Saturday night in a 6-2 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park, but the first-place Phillies maintained a 2 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East because Atlanta lost again to the Dodgers. The Phillies now need to win Sunday afternoon's series finale to split the four-game series against the Reds, who are in last place in the NL Central.

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"They've done a good job pounding the strike zone and making us swing the bat," Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp said. "Their defense has been pretty good, too. We've hit a lot of balls really hard, just kind of right at them."

Very little went right for the Phillies after Rhys Hoskins hit a go-ahead, two-run home run to center field in the fourth inning against Reds right-hander Matt Harvey. It was Hoskins' 21st homer of the season and seventh homer in his past eight games.

Manager Gabe Kapler was left focusing on the fact that Vince Velasquez worked out of a jam in the fifth inning to keep the game tied. Velasquez walked two batters to load the bases with one out in the fifth, but he struck out Adam Duvall and pinch-hitter Dilson Herrera swinging to end the inning.

Video: PHI@CIN: Velasquez tosses K, escapes bases-loaded jam

"Vince had a lot of fight tonight," Kapler said. "He put himself into a tough spot, but was able to fight out. It was brought up at some point that last year's version of Vinnie might not have made it out of a couple of those situations. He continues to fight and grind, and I think he showed a lot of heart in that outing. We're really proud of him for that."

"You've got to get out of it somehow, some way," Velasquez said.

Phillies right-hander Tommy Hunter was on the mound to start the sixth inning. Billy Hamilton doubled when a ball deflected off third baseman Maikel Franco's glove. Hunter had runners at the corners with one out when Joey Votto hit a rocket just to the left of Cesar Hernandez. The ball deflected off his glove, allowing a run to score. Eugenio Suarez then hit a ball to Franco for a potential inning-ending double play, but Franco had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and Hernandez dropped the exchange.

Video: PHI@CIN: Suarez hits 80th RBI with a fielder's choice

"I think we can make that play, I do," Kapler said. "But I also think that's no sure thing. If he comes up and fields that ball cleanly and gets rid of it quickly, throws a strike, we can turn that. This is baseball. It doesn't always turn out that way."

The Phillies' defense continues to be an issue. As the games get bigger, each play becomes bigger and more magnified.

Can the Phillies make the plays they need to make down the stretch?

Video: PHI@CIN: Hernandez cuts down Barnhart at home

"It's really important for us to defend the baseball," Kapler said. "Over the course of the season, we've seen ebbs and flows in various departments. We've seen it in the bullpen. We've definitely seen it with our offense. We're quiet for a little while and then we have stretches where we really dominate. 

"On the defensive side of the ball, we haven't been perfect. But at the same time, we've had stretches where we played really good baseball. For me, all this says is we had a game where we didn't defend the baseball like we could. We're going to have more games where we defend the baseball like we can, and we believe in that conceptually."

Video: PHI@CIN: Kapler on offensive struggles, 6-2 loss

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hamilton hit a 0-2 fastball from Velasquez for a two-out single to score a run in the fourth inning and tie the game.

"I honestly missed the pitch," Velasquez said. "I kind of yanked it. I wanted to elevate on the guy in. I kind of just yanked it a little bit. It's right in the zone. Missed spots happen. Again, you put yourself in those situations, you've got to get out of them."

Video: PHI@CIN: Hamilton rips a 2-out RBI single

SOUND SMART
Newly acquired infielder Asdrubal Cabrera went 0-for-4 with one strikeout in his Phillies debut. He started at shortstop, but he did not have a ball hit at him. More >

Video: PHI@CIN: Harvey K's Cabrera in first AB with Phillies

HE SAID IT
"Yeah, that's baseball though. The ball took a couple of bad bounces. Sometimes in baseball that's the way it works out. It just sucks because Vince had a pretty sick end of that fifth inning, and you just try to keep that rolling and unfortunately it took a couple of hops and went against us right there. It sucks. It's frustrating." -- Hunter, on two balls hitting off defender's gloves and going for hits in a two-run sixth

Video: PHI@CIN: Votto ropes a go-ahead RBI single in the 6th

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin (7-2, 3.41 ERA) pitches Sunday afternoon in the final game of a four-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park at 1:10 p.m. ET. Eflin's 2 2/3-inning outing Monday against the Dodgers marked his shortest start since his debut in June 2016. He will look to get back on track after finishing the first half with wins in six of his final seven starts. Luis Castillo (5-8, 5.30) will start for the Reds.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Rhys Hoskins