Phils uncork Eflin, otherwise 'a little bit flat' vs. SD

May 18th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper had no chance to play Tuesday once he got a platelet-rich plasma injection into his right elbow on Sunday.

He said he hoped to be back as early as Wednesday, and no later than Thursday.

In the meantime, he hoped the Phillies could take the momentum they created by winning five of seven games on a road trip out west and turn it into something bigger at home. It is mid-May, and the Phillies need to get on a good roll at some point.

“We can’t lay down,” Harper said before the Phillies’ 3-0 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. “We have to keep going, keep playing good baseball, having good at-bats and understand that every day is a new day, every day is a different day. We have to go in ready to play each day no matter who’s in the other dugout.”

But the Phillies opened the six-game homestand against the Padres and Dodgers with a whimper. Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin allowed just one run in six innings in his first start since May 1 because of time on the COVID-19 injured list. He pitched well, but the Phillies managed just one hit through six innings and five hits overall as they were shut out for the fourth time this season.

Defense and defensive positioning cost them, too. In the fifth inning, Wil Myers grounded a 1-2 sinker on the outer half of the plate to the right side of the infield to beat the shift for a one-out single. Eflin said he was hoping to freeze Myers with the sinker on the outer half, like he did in the second inning. But Eflin elevated the pitch and Myers did not pull the ball as the Phillies anticipated.

“The numbers will tell you he’s going to pull it 75-80 percent of the time,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He just didn’t on that one.”

Robinson Canó blooped a single to right-center field, and Austin Nola’s fielder’s choice drove in Myers from third to make it 1-0. A ball rolled underneath left fielder Kyle Schwarber to the warning track in the seventh to produce the Padres’ second run.

“Definitely just kind of felt overall a little bit flat,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “I don’t know if it was from the long travel and the off-day. But also, you’ve got to give it to [Mike] Clevinger because he’s got good stuff. And then [MacKenzie] Gore came in next, and obviously he’s not bad either.”

But the Phillies’ lineup looked and felt different without Harper. He had a slash line of .609/.643/1.261 with six doubles, three homers, eight RBIs and three stolen bases in six games last week in Seattle and Los Angeles. It made him NL Player of the Week.

“Again, I don’t want to say, ‘Well, we can’t win unless he’s playing,’ because everyone in this clubhouse is capable of playing well,” Castellanos said. “But missing a guy who just won Player of the Week hitting .600 does hurt. Bigger picture, we need him to be healthy and good and feeling right. He has to handle his stuff.”

The Phillies might need to play again without Harper on Wednesday. If they want to maintain some semblance of the momentum from the West Coast trip, they need to find a way to win.

“It’s baseball,” Eflin said. “We didn’t swing it too well, and that happens. But I was pretty fired up watching that whole [Dodgers] series at the house. I was trying not to wake the baby because I was very happy at certain parts of the game.

“It kind of gives you motivation to do everything that you can to be ready to go when you get back and when I was able to get back with the guys. It was a great road trip, and I wish I could’ve been part of it.”

Eflin is set to pitch again on Sunday, the final game of the six-game homestand. There is still time to make it a good one.