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Cold open for Phils' offense in Game 1 loss

Kingery homers; Eflin delivers 7-K quality start
@ToddZolecki
June 19, 2019

WASHINGTON – Well, at least the Phillies finally played. • Box score After the Phils waited for hours on Monday and Tuesday to play the Nationals at Nationals Park, only to have the first two games in the four-game series postponed because of rain, they lost Game 1 of a

WASHINGTON – Well, at least the Phillies finally played.

Box score

After the Phils waited for hours on Monday and Tuesday to play the Nationals at Nationals Park, only to have the first two games in the four-game series postponed because of rain, they lost Game 1 of a split doubleheader Wednesday afternoon, 6-2. The Phillies have lost six of their past eight games, and 11 of their past 17.

“It has been tough, but this is going to happen throughout a season,” Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin said. “The best teams in the game and the worst teams in the game, it’s going to happen. It’s really how we bounce back. Nobody is pressing the panic button. We know we’re going to be just fine. It’s just one of those rough patches.”​

Eflin did his part. He allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings. He has a 2.83 ERA in 14 starts. However, Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin allowed one run in seven innings. He had an 11.37 ERA in his past three starts, but he solved the Phillies.

The Phillies have been in an offensive funk for some time. They entered the game 10th in the National League in batting average (.243), eighth in on-base percentage (.322), 10th in slugging percentage (.418) and ninth in OPS (.740). Their expected weighted on-base average (.322) and average exit velocity (88.2 mph) each ranked 16th in baseball.

The front office assembled a talented roster in the offseason with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen, though McCutchen is lost for the season following a torn ACL in his left knee. Jay Bruce, who essentially replaced McCutchen in the outfield, did not play Game 1 because he is nursing a sore left hamstring.

“Independent of the recent struggles, we knew we were going to miss McCutchen,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We certainly have. He was a consistent force for us at the top of the lineup. Not just when he did damage, but also the way he took pitches and worked counts. He was excellent up there. We haven't really quite found a way to replace him fully.”

Harper tried to take an extra base on a Scott Kingery single up the middle in the top of the sixth inning with the Nationals holding a one-run lead. Kingery, who homered in the first, hit a ball to center. Harper hesitated as he rounded second base, then picked up steam and ran to third. Nats center fielder Gerardo Parra barehanded the ball and made a perfect throw to third to get Harper.

It was close enough that the Phillies challenged the call. They lost.

“Ultra-aggressive baserunning play,” Kapler said. “I really liked it. A slight hesitation around second base, and he's out at third base. He understands that. Parra came up and did everything perfectly. Barehanded, perfect throw to third base. Out by this much. By a hair. If he doesn't have that very slight hesitation, which he knows, he's safe at third base. I really like the baserunning play. If Bryce were sitting right here, he would say, 'I hesitated just slightly and cost us a safe play.’ Not questioning the decision at all. I really think he's safe if he doesn't hesitate.”

“I know he's an aggressive player, and I tried to get everything perfect,” Parra said. “Barehanded, throw the ball as fast as I can. I think that changed the game.”

The Phillies still had two on with two outs in the sixth when Sean Rodríguez stepped into the batter’s box. He grounded out on a 3-0 fastball.

“Love it. Love it,” Kapler said about Rodriguez swinging at the 3-0 pitch. “Where we are in the lineup, it's just the right play, yeah. Left-hander on the mound. He does damage against lefties. He has a chance to hit a double or a home run. Love it. Great play.”

It did not translate into runs this time. Lately, few moments have.

“I'll continue to encourage the aggressiveness that Sean showed right there,” Kapler said. “It was a 3-0 green light. So that is representative of exactly what we want him to do in that situation. In order to score runs, you have to have players in good positions to succeed with the bat. A 3-0 count is a great position to succeed with the bat. Sean Rodriguez is a guy who can hit a home run. He's in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher. He's above the other guys in the lineup, because he can do damage in that spot.

“It's an aggressive play that we encourage and would do every single time. We'd ask him to swing the bat in that situation. Sometimes, he'll put the ball in the gaps or the seats down the line. Sometimes, he's going to make an out. The outcome does not determine what we would do the next time. Looking back, we wouldn't change anything.”

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