If I told you the Phillies were going to split their Friday doubleheader with the Marlins, you probably would not have been surprised.
Matt Moore against Sandy Alcantara, a guy they don’t hit, stacks up as a loss. Zach Eflin in the second game against a slew of Marlins’ relievers? Lock that one up as a win.
Except that’s not what happened at all.
A Phillies team that almost never does what it’s supposed to do stayed true to its DNA by winning the game they were supposed to lose before losing the game they were supposed to win.
The momentum from their Game 1 victory over the Marlins lasted all of one Eflin pitch into Game 2. It was a pitch routinely grounded to, then booted by, shortstop Didi Gregorius.
The Marlins would quickly make the Phillies pay for Gregorius’ error four pitches later when Starling Marte clobbered a 422 ft. homer to give his team an early 2-0 lead.
Some call it a moon shot, we call it a star shot. pic.twitter.com/UCpKge3tk7
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) July 16, 2021
The error and ensuing home run set the tone in a sobering 7-0 Phillies loss, one that dropped them back to the .500 mark just a few hours after getting on the plus side of the ledger for the first time in over a month.
Let’s get onto some observations and thoughts following this stinker.
How Much Rest Do We Need?
With a win in hand, the Phillies had a chance to sweep the Marlins and make a statement to begin an important stretch leading up to the trade deadline.
And Joe Girardi starts Matt Vierling in right? I mean, what are we doing here?
Travis Jankowski was fresh off a three-hit game.
Bryce Harper just had four days off. Both players represent superior options.
After the game, Girardi told reporters that Harper sat due to dehydration and that his right fielder will be ready to go tomorrow.
I don’t know. Something seems a bit off to me.
Either way, with a chance to drop the hammer on a division opponent that gives the Phillies fits, this team instead gently placed the hammer in the hands of the Marlins and said, “Here. Your turn.”
That’s About Right
Do the Phillies have some good players? Yeah. And if you look at this team on certain days, you can kind of see how they might make a play for the postseason.
They build a little momentum, create a little buzz, and then just go out and get pantsed. Good defense and clutch hitting is quickly followed by poor defense and no hitting. A good start is followed by a bad one. A nice bullpen outing is backed up by a miserable one.
Arepas > Cheesesteaks pic.twitter.com/SS2KKJTRhO
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) July 17, 2021
The Phillies never let you feel too good for too long and that type of inconsistency is a big part of why fans are reluctant to buy into this team.
Didi, My Man, Catch the Ball
The Phillies have won 8 of their last 12 games, but two of the losses were put into motion early by brutal Gregorius errors.
On the Phillies’ most recent road trip, Zack Wheeler couldn’t overcome a first-inning error by the shortstop against the Cubs en route to an early 3-0 deficit. Eflin couldn’t pick him up when the same thing happened tonight.
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) July 16, 2021
Nobody will mistake Gregorius for an elite defender at this point in his career, but he has to make the easy ones, and that’s not happening frequently enough.
That being said…
Zach Eflin, Not Great
Eflin closed the first half with a strong showing against the Cubs a little more than a week ago, but he struggled in his first showing of the second half. He allowed five earned runs over 3 2/3 innings and never looked comfortable throughout a rough 79-pitch outing.
The Phillies have won Matt Moore’s last four starts. That’s great and all, but maintaining that level of success in consistently short starts backed by a bad bullpen remains unlikely.
After this latest loss, the Phillies are now just 7-11 when Eflin starts. If they are going to flirt with a postseason spot in earnest, they need Eflin, Wheeler, and Aaron Nola to each pitch well, and they must win more frequently when those guys are on the mound.
Rhys Hoskins, Flasher of Leather
Rhys Hoskins has had his share of defensive struggles at first base this season. He began the day with -5 defensive runs saved this season. Only two other qualifying first baseman have been worse by that metric.
But he made a hell of play with the Phillies on the ropes in the third inning:
Game changing play by Rhys Hoskins?
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) July 17, 2021
That’s about as good as it gets. At the time, the play kept the Phillies within shouting distance. Ultimately, things got out of hand an inning later, but his stab had turning point potential.