MIAMI – Twenty-nine games into the season, the Phillies have reached a little gut check.
They've lost four in a row and two straight to a Miami Marlins team that shipped their top players out of town in an offseason fire sale. It's bad enough that the Phils have already lost three of five games against the Marlins this season. A sweep would be an early-season kick in the teeth. Aaron Nola gets the ball Wednesday night as the Phillies try to avoid said kick.
"I think every day is an opportunity to perform to our fullest potential," manager Gabe Kapler said after Tuesday night's 2-1 loss in 10 innings (see first take). "Tomorrow is no different."
Since running out to a 14-7 start, the Phillies have lost six of their last eight games.
They probably should have won Tuesday night's game. They got an outstanding start from Zach Eflin. He was perfect through five and allowed just three hits and a run over six walk-free innings.
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For the second night in a row, the offense did not come through with men on base. On Monday night, the Phils were down by two runs in the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out. They got nothing. In this game, they did nothing with a leadoff double in the top of the ninth and ended up leaving two men on base in the inning. They left the bases loaded in the 10th when Maikel Franco lined out to shortstop. An inning earlier, Franco failed to move a runner from second with no outs.
The Phils ended up stranding 11 runners. They were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
"We just haven't had a chance to cash in with runners on base and it's hurt us the last couple of days," Kapler said. "We hit some line drives with runners on base and hit it where guys were standing. That's certainly disappointing. We understand the hits are going to fall. We believe that the hits are going to fall. Right now, they're not."
One that did not fall was a 409-foot drive to the wall in center by Aaron Altherr in the fourth inning. It died in centerfielder Lewis Brinson's glove.
"I can't hit a ball any harder," Altherr said afterward.
The Marlins won it on a triple by Cameron Maybin and a hit by Yadiel Rivera with one out in the 10th. Yacksel Rios took the loss. The Phils' pitching was very good for the game. It allowed seven hits, one walk and struck out eight.
The Phils may be without Scott Kingery as they look to avoid the sweep Wednesday night. He took a 98-mph fastball from Tayron Guerrero off the inside of the right biceps in the ninth inning and left the game in the 10th. Kingery was lucky. The ball hit all flesh. He was bruised and swollen, but nothing was broken. It would not be surprising if he needed a couple of days off, but he might be able to avoid the disabled list and that's a positive because starting shortstop J.P. Crawford is already on the DL.
"Thankfully, it missed pretty much all the important stuff and just got full bicep," Kingery said. "It didn't feel good obviously, but it should be all right."
Kingery seemed more sore about losing two straight to Miami.
"These are games we've got to win," he said. "The pitching has been good. Especially today, it's tough for us only to be able to scratch one across the board. We've been playing good. We've got to get back to kind of picking each other up and getting that next guy up to the plate. It's something we've done well all season, so we'll get it rolling again here pretty soon."