These head-to-head NL East contests all count, even if the Phillies were facing the Nationals' B-squad on Sunday.
With Washington missing Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams, Zach Eflin worked quickly and efficiently in a 7-1 Phillies win.
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The Phils gave Eflin some early run support thanks to a pair of Nationals errors in the first inning. The big one was Cesar Hernandez's hard groundball right at first baseman Jake Noll with the bases loaded. It clanged off Noll's glove and into right field to score Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura and the Phils never looked back.
They broke it open with a five-run sixth inning to improve to 19-14 on the season. The Phillies finished their homestand 6-3 and their 14-7 record at home is fourth best in baseball behind the Astros, Dodgers and Cardinals.
They now hit the road for three games in St. Louis and three in Kansas City.
Solid execution, good fortune in the sixth
Everything went the Phillies' way in their five-run sixth inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Eflin laid down a perfect safety squeeze that left the Nationals' pitcher, catcher and first baseman with no play.
The Phillies are not a small-ball team but they've executed two of these successfully in their last 10 games, one by Eflin, one by Roman Quinn.
Two batters later, Segura chopped a ball to shortstop that bounced just high enough for him to avoid a double play.
After a Bryce Harper RBI single, Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run double down the left-field line that was fair by about an inch.
Hoskins is up to 31 RBI, third in the NL behind Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger.
Eflin locked in again
Coming off a complete game in which he threw 107 pitches, Eflin again did not mess around, going right after Nationals hitters. He threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of 26 hitters and allowed multiple baserunners in only one inning, his last.
Those 21 first-pitch strikes increased Eflin's percentage to 71.8, second highest in all of baseball behind only Max Scherzer (72.0 percent).
Eflin's final line: 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts.
Eflin tends to fly under the radar. Through seven starts, he's 4-3 with a 3.00 ERA. He's pitched very well in five of those seven starts and has a chance to keep it going against the lowly Royals this weekend.
Harper loses the batting gloves
Harper was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts in his first three at-bats before ditching his batting gloves to try to switch it up in his fourth at-bat. He stroked an RBI single off left-hander Matt Grace to give the Phillies another insurance run.
Over his last 13 games, Harper is 6 for 43 (.140) with eight walks and 17 strikeouts. Interestingly, this was his only single over that two-week span.
Harper has had multiple hits in just one of his last 21 games, the five-hit night at Coors Field on April 19.
Kurt Suzuki took Eflin deep in the fourth inning, giving him a home run in all three games of the series. Suzuki has 10 career home runs against the Phillies, two more than he has against any team despite him having played 12 teams more often than the Phils.
The Phillies will face tough right-handed pitchers Monday and Wednesday in St. Louis.
Monday: Vince Velasquez (1-1, 2.73) vs. Miles Mikolas (3-2, 4.73)
Tuesday: Aaron Nola (2-0, 5.06) vs. Dakota Hudson (2-2, 4.80)
Wednesday: Jerad Eickhoff (1-1, 2.05) vs. Jack Flaherty (3-2, 4.17)
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