LOS ANGELES - It did not matter that Rhys Hoskins had struggled at the plate for the past month. He still had a presence in the Phillies' lineup. Pitchers still looked at him as a threat.But now that Hoskins might miss weeks because of a fractured jaw that could require
LOS ANGELES - It did not matter that Rhys Hoskins had struggled at the plate for the past month. He still had a presence in the Phillies' lineup. Pitchers still looked at him as a threat.
But now that Hoskins might miss weeks because of a fractured jaw that could require surgery, it will be imperative, both for his replacements in the outfield and his teammates on the mound, to pick up the slack. That didn't happen on Wednesday night, as right-hander Zach Eflin allowed five runs in four innings and the offense was largely flat in an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
The Phillies need to win Thursday's series finale between Aaron Nola and Clayton Kershaw to split the series.
"It's really different, extremely different," Phillies outfielder Nick Williams said about Hoskins' absence from the lineup. "You just have that missing feeling."
Williams and Aaron Altherr had been sharing time in right field, with Hoskins in left and Odubel Herrera in center. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Williams and Altherr will play regularly while Hoskins is out. Dylan Cozens is expected to join the team on Thursday, but he is more likely to be rotated into the mix and play occasionally.
"Obviously, it sucks to have Rhys out of the lineup," Altherr said. "Even though he was struggling a little bit lately, he's still a threat to do some damage."
The Phillies need Altherr to do damage. He has struggled most of the season after being one of the team's best hitters in 2017. He is hitting .195 with five home runs, 24 RBIs and a .683 OPS in 161 plate appearances. He went 1-for-4 on Wednesday.
"At times, his rhythm and his timing has been off," Kapler said. "Barrel accuracy is impacted by timing. When his timing and rhythm isn't on, he gets less accurate with the barrel."
"I know I feel close," Altherr said, "even though it might not seem that way. But I do feel like I'm getting closer and closer."
The Phillies had been shut out by Dodgers starter Thomas Stripling until Williams led off the seventh inning with his second homer in as many nights. The long ball left his bat at 103.2 mph and was projected to travel 404 feet, according to Statcast™. Williams is hitting .273 with five home runs, 10 RBIs and a .937 OPS in 62 plate appearances in May after posting a .532 OPS in April.
"I'm curious a little bit," Williams said about seeing how he might perform with regular playing time. "But honestly, I'm just trying to maintain the focus and have good at-bats. I bought into what they had in the plan for me, and it's going to be really good for me."
Williams' homer was the only run the Phillies managed against Stripling, who struck out nine while allowing four hits in seven innings.
Eflin didn't fare as well. He allowed one earned run in 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts earlier this month, when he replaced Ben Lively, but has an 8.10 ERA (12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings) in his past three starts.
The Phillies' rotation has a 2.27 ERA in its past 22 games, but the club has options in the Minor Leagues if Eflin's struggles continue. Triple-A right-hander Enyel De Los Santos and left-hander Cole Irvin have pitched well, although neither are on the 40-man roster. Lively has a 2.74 ERA in four starts with the IronPigs.
"It's more we're constantly evaluating our players," Kapler said, when asked whether Eflin's spot in the rotation is evaluated start to start. "We're constantly making determinations on what happens next. We're not there yet. Next couple of days we'll be thinking about that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Eflin allowed a solo home run to Player Page for Max Muncy and a two-run home run to Matt Kemp in the third inning to hand the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Both homers came with two outs.
"I really can't define the last three outings in one sentence, but I threw some good pitches today, fell behind a couple of guys I shouldn't have fallen behind to," Eflin said. "It just came down to an 0-0 heater down the middle and a 2-0 changeup. Like I said, I thought I threw some good pitches."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Scott Kingery showed remarkable range in the second inning, when John Forsythe hit a ball up the middle. The ball started to make its way into the outfield, but the speedy Kingery snared it just off the infield dirt and made a fantastic throw with his momentum carrying him toward right field to nail Forsythe at first.
Phillies right-hander Andrew Hutchison pitched for just the second time since May 4. Before the game Kapler said the Phillies will keep an eight-man bullpen, despite Hutchison's infrequent use.
"We don't generally run out of position players," Kapler said. "I think it's because of the mix-and-match and flexibility that we have. … Because of our roster construction, we just haven't had the need to go to an additional position player. On the flip side, it's comforting to know that Hutch can take down several innings and that our bullpen is performing well enough that we just haven't had a need to use Hutch regularly."
HE SAID IT
"Ef had stuff. He just was having a hard time locating. He fell behind. You have to have tremendous stuff to fall behind really good hitters and dig yourself back out of it. Ef does have good stuff. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability to navigate lineups. But falling behind this lineup, swinging the bat the way they're swinging the bat, is a dangerous proposition." -- Kapler, on Eflin
Phillies ace Nola (6-2, 2.7 ERA) faces Dodgers ace Kershaw (1-4, 2.86 ERA) in the four-game series finale Thursday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. It is Kershaw's first start back from the DL. It is Nola's 12th start of the season. He has not allowed more than three runs in 10 of 11 starts.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.