The Phillies ended a short stint at home with a 5-3 loss in their series finale against the Cardinals Thursday afternoon. They rallied in the eighth inning - Andrew McCutchen walked and Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins followed with three straight singles - but the threat ended with a Cesar Hernandez infield fly, a Scott Kingery strikeout and a J.T. Realmuto pinch-hit popout.
Still, it was another series win for the first-place Phils, who are 33-23 with 35 percent of the regular season in the books.
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The Phillies now fly to the West Coast, where they'll play three games at Dodger Stadium and three in San Diego.
The Dodgers are the best team in the National League and the Phillies own the NL's second-best record, making this series must-see TV and a big measuring stick for the Phils.
Despite Thursday's loss, the Phillies are 11-4-3 in their 18 series and 20-11 at home. They won the season series against the Cardinals 4-2.
Home runs piling up against Eickhoff
Jerad Eickhoff allowed a pair of solo home runs in the second inning, then settled in for a while. It had the makings of a bounce-back start for Eickhoff, who had allowed just those two runs through six innings, but he was taken deep a third time by Jedd Gyorko in the seventh.
With the Phillies' bullpen ravaged by injuries and Eickhoff at just 82 pitches through six, Gabe Kapler wanted to get his starter through one final inning. It didn't work.
Through nine appearances and eight starts this season, Eickhoff has a 4.10 ERA, not bad for a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. But the concerning sign is that Eickhoff has allowed 10 home runs in his last 18⅓ innings.
Harper keeps it going
Harper doubled twice more on Thursday, giving him 19 on the season. Through this many games last year, he had six doubles. He also drove in a run with a single off lefty Andrew Miller in the eighth.
It really does appear that Harper has worked his way out of the worst part of his early-season skid. Over his last 15 games, Harper has hit .333 with nine doubles, three homers and 16 RBI. Unusually for him, he's walked only four times over that span.
This weekend won't be easy for Harper. The Dodgers have the best pitching staff in the National League and two tough lefties going Saturday and Sunday. Harper has more than held his own against lefties this season, hitting .302 with a .587 slugging percentage.
Could use another bench bat
It did not make the difference in the game, but the Phillies got another weak pinch-hit plate appearance from Nick Williams with a man on in the seventh inning.
The Phillies have had the worst pinch-hitting in the National League. Their pinch-hitters are 13 for 88, hitting .148 with four walks and 29 strikeouts.
Here are some bench bat targets who could be available ahead of the trade deadline.
J.D. Hammer pitched another 1-2-3 inning. He has begun his major-league career with three perfect innings and five strikeouts. He whiffed Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong on Thursday.
Pitching matchups for the Dodgers series:
Friday night at 10:10 - Jake Arrieta (5-4, 3.60) vs. Kenta Maeda (6-2, 3.67)
Saturday night at 10:10 - Zach Eflin (5-5, 3.02) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-0, 3.46)
Sunday afternoon at 4:00 - Nick Pivetta (3-1, 7.71) vs. LHP Rich Hill (1-1, 2.73)
Kershaw does not have the same stuff he did in his prime, but he has held Bryce Harper to 2 for 21 with 13 strikeouts.
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