ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Everything is bigger in Texas.
Even the beatings.
The Phillies suffered another one Wednesday night and it was a big one. The Texas Rangers pounded the often-reliable Zach Eflin for 11 hits and seven runs in the first four innings on their way to beating up the Phillies, 9-3, in a game that had a men-against-boys quality to it (see Instant Replay).
The loss was the Phillies' 14th in the last 17 games as they fell to 14-23 on the season. The Rangers have beaten the Phils two nights in a row by a combined score of 14-4.
The Phillies are 3-11 in May and their team ERA in the month is a plump 5.67.
"I sound like a broken record," manager Pete Mackanin said after watching the Rangers pound out 17 hits in the game. "The command isn't there. The ball is up in the zone and the secondary pitches, you need command of them. We've seen them do it before. We won six in a row before this little stretch here. It's early in the season. I'm not going to assume we're this bad. I know we're not."
Eflin entered the game riding a streak of four straight quality starts in which he'd walked just one batter. So it was a bad omen when he walked two in the first inning.
"Yeah, it was disappointing because I was counting on him to pitch the way he has been in his last four outings because he's been outstanding," Mackanin said. "He couldn't get the ball down. It was all about command again."
Eflin, a 23-year-old veteran of just 17 big-league starts, was hard on himself after the game.
"I couldn't get the ball down," he said. "I fell behind hitters. I did a good job throwing it right into their bat today. I didn't do my job. Just one of those games you've got to swallow and move on.
"I did a horrible job of locating the fastball, getting them off balance and pitching inside.
"I've got to do my job. I didn't do that tonight. And that's where it all starts. It starts with the starting pitcher being able to keep the game close and giving the team a chance to win and I did not do that today."
While the Phillies are among the coldest teams in baseball, the Rangers are the hottest. They have won eight in a row and done it on the backs of an offense that has averaged 6.6 runs and a pitching staff that has recorded a 2.50 ERA over that span.
The Rangers have gotten seven strong innings from their starting pitcher in each of the first two games of the series, Yu Darvish on Tuesday and Andrew Cashner on Wednesday. Cashner did give up eight hits, but only two of them were for extra bases and his teammates turned four double plays behind him.
Casher was so effective that he blitzed through the Phillies on just 13 pitches in the fifth and sixth innings.
Despite allowing seven base runners in the first two innings, Eflin managed to wriggle out of trouble and give up just two runs over that span. Things came apart in the third when Eflin gave up four hits and four runs. He also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch in that frame.
It was one of those nights for the young pitcher.
Did something go wrong mechanically for him?
"Not necessarily," he said. "It's more of a focus thing. I think I could have easily locked it in and gotten the ball down but for some reason -- I don't know what it was tonight -- I couldn't figure it out. I'll come back tomorrow and work at it. I'll come back in five or six days and attack hitters."
The Phils will look to avoid a sweep on Thursday. Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta, who has been tagged for 23 hits and 10 runs over 14 2/3 innings in his first three starts, will be facing a tough assignment, a smoking hot team with a tough lineup. Lefty Martin Perez (1-5, 3.89) will pitch for the Rangers, who will look to make it nine straight wins while the Phillies hope to avoid a 12th May loss on the 18th day of the month.
"When things go good, you kind of get that feeling you're going to win," Mackanin said. "When things go bad, nothing goes right. We hit into four double plays tonight. We hit some line drives at people. I'm not concerned, but I don't like losing and this is a bad stretch."