Girardi: 'The next person just has to step up'

July 21st, 2021

NEW YORK -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi did not sound terribly concerned Tuesday afternoon when he talked about the right knee injury that sidelined Zach Eflin.

Girardi said he expects Eflin to return soon. The pitcher thinks he will be back soon, too.

But the Phillies cannot afford to lose any of their top pitchers, especially in the rotation. Eflin sits atop the Phils’ rotation with Zack Wheeler and , and Nola has a 6.10 ERA in his past eight starts following Tuesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

It leaves the Phillies scrambling to fill a lot of innings.

“The next person just has to step up,” Girardi said. “That’s part of it. There’s a lot of teams that are going through this now. So the next person just has to step up. Take it one game at a time, and you figure out how to win that game.”

Nola allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first start in two weeks after missing a start in Boston because he was placed on the COVID-19 injured list for contact tracing. The loss kept the Phillies 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East.

Eflin’s injury and Nola’s struggles compound the Phillies’ pitching issues as they inch closer to the July 30 Trade Deadline. These shortcomings could come into play on Wednesday, when the Phils will deploy their bullpen to pitch the series finale. Left-hander Bailey Falter could have started, but he was placed on the COVID-19 IL alongside right-hander JD Hammer on Tuesday.

“It probably affected it a little bit,” Girardi said about how he used his bullpen on Tuesday. “And it’ll affect it a little tomorrow obviously, as well, because you’re going to be down two arms that you might have used. But again, the next person just has to step up and it’s part of what we’re going through this year.”

It is unclear how much time Falter and Hammer will miss.

Eflin said he expects to miss only more turn through the rotation, as he is eligible to be activated as early as July 27. But there is no telling when Nola will get straightened out and start pitching like himself again.

“We’ve got a lot of games left,” Nola said. “We’ve just got to stay healthy and hope Zach can bounce back quick. We definitely need him. We’re just going to do our best to win as much as possible. Every game matters.”

After Rhys Hoskins got the Phillies on the board first with a big fly in the second inning, Nola allowed a run in the third to tie the game at 1. Ronald Torreyes smoked an RBI double in the fourth at his old stomping grounds, allowing Nola to take a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth, when Greg Allen walked, stole second and advanced to third on a flyout to open the inning. Allen scored on Tyler Wade’s lineout to Didi Gregorius, who threw wide to third as he tried to turn an inning-ending double play.

Allen would have scored anyway. Brett Gardner hit Nola’s next pitch for a solo home run to right field to hand New York a 3-2 lead. It was the ninth two-out homer Nola has allowed this season. Only Mike Foltynewicz (15) and Adbert Alzolay (10) have allowed more.

“It’s just an accumulation of things,” Nola said. “The two-out hits and runs scored. Today I think the leadoff guy getting on … that causes problems.”

Nola allowed a solo homer to Gary Sánchez to start the sixth to make it 4-2. He will make his next start Sunday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, and he needs to get going.

“I feel like I’m close,” Nola said. “The execution of my pitches just really hasn’t been what I want them to be.”