Phillies-Mariners 5 Things: Zach Eflin to Face Seattle's B-team

Phillies (13-18) vs. Mariners (16-17)
1:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

It's probably a good thing the Phillies had only a few hours to move past Tuesday night's loss because it was, again, disheartening.

The Phils blew two different four-run leads and lost for the only the third time in the last 82 games when scoring nine-plus runs.

The quick two-game series wraps up this afternoon.

1. Seven more for Eflin?
With Jeremy Hellickson and Jerad Eickhoff struggling of late, Zach Eflin is their hottest pitcher.

He enters with a 2.42 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and .202 opponents' batting average in four starts, all no-decisions.

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After walking three batters in his first start, he's pitched 21 straight innings without a free pass.

And while the rest of the Phillies' rotation had trouble with the Dodgers and Cubs, he held them in check, allowing five runs in 14 innings and generating 29 groundballs. 

Eflin, who had surgery on both knees late last season, just looks like a more balanced and complete pitcher. His fastball still doesn't miss many bats but it plays at 94 mph low in the zone. As long as he's not walking anyone, he's going to be OK.

Just seven times this season has a Phillies starting pitcher gone at least seven innings and three of those games belong to Eflin.

Eflin's gone seven innings more times this season than Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Jon Lester, Corey Kluber, Michael Pineda, Zack Greinke and Gio Gonzalez, among many others.

2. Altherr bats third
Aaron Altherr is the Phillies' hottest hitter and best player right now, so Pete Mackanin has finally decided to move him into more of a run-producing spot in the lineup.

Altherr bats third Wednesday for the first time this season.

He's hit .343/.425/.671 through 80 plate appearances with eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBIs. 

He's reached base in 17 of his last 32 times up, and he has either a multi-hit effort or an extra-base hit in six of his last seven games.

Mackanin said Tuesday that he considered moving Altherr to the three-hole but hesitated because Altherr is swinging so well that it wasn't worth changing anything. And that's a legitimate point because players, especially young players, are prone to trying to do too much when moved to three or four. 

We'll see how Altherr responds.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Michael Saunders, RF
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Andres Blanco, 3B
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

3. Seattle's B-team?
One of the most frustrating aspects of Tuesday's 10-9 Phillies loss was that Nelson Cruz did not start, Robinson Cano exited midway through the game and the Phils still couldn't control the Mariners' offense.

Cruz is dealing with some hamstring tightness, and he hasn't played the field at all this season. The Mariners are hesitant to put him out in right field, where the injury could be aggravated and where he's never been a sound defensive player. His bat is too important to risk losing. He's hit .325 with a .970 OPS, seven home runs and an American League-leading 29 RBIs.

Cano left Tuesday with a right quad strain and is day to day. His monster shot off Eickhoff last night was his seventh of the season.

Without Cano and Cruz, the Mariners' lineup is much less imposing, so long as someone can get Ben Gamel out.

4. Gallardo goes for Seattle
The Phillies face 31-year-old right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who just isn't that good anymore.

Gallardo, 1-3 with a 4.46 ERA in his first season with Seattle, doesn't strike many hitters out, will struggle with control, puts a lot of men on base and doesn't go deep into games. 

Since moving from the Brewers to the AL before 2016, Gallardo has a 5.20 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP and 73 walks in 152⅓ innings. He's averaged 5.25 innings per start.

It's not worth going over Gallardo's career numbers against the Phillies because so many of those starts came against players who are long gone. Current Phils have gone 6 for 23 (.261) off him with three doubles, belong to Galvis, Blanco and Daniel Nava.

Saunders has seen him the best, going 1 for 4 with five walks.

Gallardo is a five-pitch pitcher with a fastball, sinker, slider, curveball and changeup. He'll throw any pitch in any count and will work backwards.

5. This and that
• Maikel Franco, hitless in his last 14 at-bats, down to .208 on the season and .190 with runners in scoring position, gets the afternoon off. It will give him two full days off before the weekend series in Washington. 

• Phillies GM Matt Klentak said last weekend that he won't give up on Tommy Joseph after 90 or so plate appearances, and Joseph has responded the first week of May. He's 8 for 23 (.348) with three doubles, two homers and five walks - more doubles, homers and walks than he had all of April.

• The Phillies have a 5.48 ERA over the last seven games.

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