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Phils unable to hold lead, fall on walk-off HR

Club going through tough stretch, but Kapler not worried about struggles
August 22, 2018

WASHINGTON -- The Phillies' clubhouse had not been this quiet in quite some time.More than a few Phillies hung their heads in their lockers in the minutes following Wednesday night's agonizing 8-7 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park. Right-hander Seranthony Dominguez had allowed a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run

WASHINGTON -- The Phillies' clubhouse had not been this quiet in quite some time.
More than a few Phillies hung their heads in their lockers in the minutes following Wednesday night's agonizing 8-7 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park. Right-hander Seranthony Dominguez had allowed a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth inning. It was the Phillies' fourth consecutive loss and 10th loss in 15 games. They fell three games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East.
"There is no panic," Rhys Hoskins said.
"This is a good test," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Still, Phillies right-hander Tommy Hunter made a point to walk around the visitors' clubhouse afterward to ask his teammates if they were OK.
It made sense to check. Things have been pretty bad lately. They have lost close games. They have lost blowout games. They have not looked like the team that was 15 games over .500 with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves on Aug. 7.
"We're young," Hoskins said. "A lot of us haven't been here before, but the veteran guys in this clubhouse, the guys with experience, the guys that have been through this before have just stressed to stay the course. There's no need to change much. We got to where we were by trusting our work, trusting our preparation. So I think as long as there's no panic -- I don't think anybody's hitting the panic button -- I think we're going to be OK."
"I don't worry," Kapler said. "I'm not concerned about our club. I know that we have issues. I know that we are imperfect. But I don't worry about a four-game stretch. I don't worry about a 10-game stretch."

The Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the first inning following Maikel Franco's two-run home run and a 4-1 lead in the third following a home run from Justin Bour -- his first with the club -- but the Nationals tied the game in the third against Zach Eflin. The Phillies added runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, including a two-out, pinch-hit, run-scoring double from Carlos Santana in the sixth and Cesar Hernandez's solo homer in the seventh.
The Phillies carried a one-run lead into the ninth, when they loaded the bases with one out. They did not score.
Did the Phillies have a bad feeling at that moment?

"No, we were winning, and we had Seranthony coming in," Hoskins said.
Dominguez has been the team's best reliever for much of the season, but he has a 9.00 ERA in his last six appearances. His fastball velocity is down this month from a season-high 98.3 mph in July to 97.4 mph in August, although it averaged 98.7 mph Wednesday.
The 2-1 fastball to Zimmerman hit just 96.4 mph.
His slider has not been in the zone as much this month: only 30 percent of the time compared to around 47 percent in May and June. The slider has not had as much movement lately, according to Brooks Baseball.
Both the fastball and slider have been hit much harder lately, too.
"Based on the results, I know that I don't look the same," Dominguez said. "But I feel the same. I don't think anything has changed."
"I don't have concerns about Seranthony," Kapler said. "In fact, I'm encouraged by that outing. I don't like the outcome. I'm not blind to the fact he gave up a walk-off home run. I'm just saying the stuff out of his hand was very encouraging."

But the Phillies need to start seeing results. Not only from Dominguez, but from everybody. There is more than a month of baseball to play, but the Braves are playing better right now. They could begin to pull away in the National League East. It is worth pointing out that the Phillies are at least a game out of the second NL Wild Card spot, too.
The Phillies said they are not gassed.
"I think if you can't get up for a pennant race at the end of August and September, you probably should play something else," Hoskins said. "You probably should play a different sport. Check yourself at the door."

Eflin scuffles: Eflin allowed 10 hits and five runs (four earned) in just 3 1/3 innings. He is the first Phillies starter to allow 10 or more hits in fewer than four innings in a game since Aaron Nola allowed 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants at A&T Park on June 26, 2016. Eflin has a 5.59 ERA (23 earned runs in 37 innings) in his last seven starts, dating to July 9. The Phillies are 2-5 in those games.
"I did a pretty bad job of kind of setting the tone of the game," Eflin said. "I was leaving a lot of stuff over the plate that they were taking advantage of. That's what's going to happen when you leave pitches over the middle in a big league baseball game."

Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro's throwing error to second base in the fourth inning allowed the Nationals to score a run and tie the game. Phillies catchers have 19 errors this season, six more than any other team in baseball. They are the most errors by Phillies catchers since 1988, when they had 19. The club's catchers have not had more than 19 errors in a season since they had 23 in '83.

Hernandez ripped a solo home run to right field in the seventh inning, handing the Phillies a 7-5 lead. The ball left Hernandez's bat at 101.8 mph and traveled a projected 424 feet, according to Statcast™. Hernandez needed it. He entered the game hitting .244 with a .666 OPS since May 19.

"Big challenge. Big challenge to have a tough week like we've had and then to have an excruciating loss like the one we had tonight. Our guys aren't going to hang our heads. We're going to come back swinging tomorrow. We're going to be prepared. Looking forward to having Nola on the mound. Have a lot of trust and confidence he can help us weather the storm." -- Kapler
Zimmerman's home run initially looked like a game-tying double. The ball appeared to hit off the top of the fence and back into play. But a crew chief review overturned the call of no home run, seeing that it indeed cleared the fence.

It is the battle of the aces Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Nola (14-3, 2.24 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11 ERA) in the 1:05 ET series finale. Scherzer might be the favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award, but Nola has pitched well enough to finish in the top three.

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