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Phils frustrated after wasting Eflin's 9-K effort

Offense held to 3 hits by D-backs ahead of tough NL East stretch
@ToddZolecki
June 13, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had hoped to be playing better baseball before they open a grueling stretch Friday night against the Braves in Atlanta. But here they are. The Phillies lost Wednesday night to Arizona, 2-0, at Citizens Bank Park for their eighth loss in 13 games. They lost their

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had hoped to be playing better baseball before they open a grueling stretch Friday night against the Braves in Atlanta.

But here they are. The Phillies lost Wednesday night to Arizona, 2-0, at Citizens Bank Park for their eighth loss in 13 games. They lost their hold on first place in the National League East for the first time since April 25, with the Braves beating the Pirates in 11 innings.

Box score

Wednesday’s loss and the Phillies’ recent play precedes 23 consecutive games against NL East rivals before the All-Star break, beginning with a seven-game road trip through Atlanta and Washington.

Gut check time?

“Nobody's ever won 162,” Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin said. “You're going to go through points like this in a season. It's all about how you respond to it. How much does it piss you off? How much does it make you want to go out and kick someone's ass? We're going to be just fine. Just one of those rough patches every team goes.”

Eflin did his job against the D-backs. He allowed five hits, two runs and one walk in eight innings. He tied a career-high nine strikeouts. But the Phillies had no answer for D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly, who allowed three hits and struck out five in 7 2/3 innings.

The game lasted just 2 hours, 16 minutes.

“It's more frustrating from an offensive standpoint when you've got a guy battling like that on the mound and we weren't able to do anything for him and put any runs across the board,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “I can't say enough about the way he pitched today, so it's definitely frustrating when they do get a couple runs and it's on weak contact like that. It happens. It's just baseball.”

Offensively, the Phillies have been in the middle of the pack this season. They entered the night ranked seventh in the NL in runs per game (4.94). They ranked seven in on-base percentage (.325) and ninth in slugging (.422).

They ranked 11th with 82 home runs.

It is a bit of a surprise, considering the Phillies made some notable additions to their lineup, including Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and Realmuto.

“I think we're going to hit home runs,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I guess if you just look at a third of the season, would have I expected that's where we'd rank? Probably not. Do I expect us to rank there at the end of the season? I don't. I think we have power up and down the lineup. We have guys who have a history of hitting home runs. I expect that trend to continue.”

Maybe Kapler tweaks the lineup for Friday. Cesar Hernandez has been hitting leadoff since they lost McCutchen for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Hernandez is batting .100 (5 for 50) with a .342 OPS in his past 13 games.

Scott Kingery has been swinging the bat well all season. He would seem to be next in line to lead off.

“Everything's on the table, including some lineup changes,” Kapler said. “I don't think there's any need to panic or do anything drastic. Certainly, we have some options for the top of the lineup. Those are discussions that are ongoing and considerations always.”

Lineup changes or not, the Phillies need to start playing better, especially on this upcoming road trip. The Braves entered the night 20-9 since early May. The Nationals have won 12 of their past 17 games.

“It's a huge series for us,” Realmuto said. “We haven't been playing well lately so it'd be good for us to go out there and gain some momentum, and who better to do it against than those guys, you know? So it's definitely a big series for us.”

“I think it's going to be a good challenge for us,” Kapler said. “We're prepared for this.”

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