One night after blasting five home runs in a winning effort, the maddeningly inconsistent Phillies were held to just five singles in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
The Braves have won two of three in the four-game series that ends Thursday night.
The loss meant the Phillies could potentially lose ground in the NL wild-card race. They entered the day two games back but could slip to three games back depending on the outcome of the Cubs-Padres game in San Diego. Milwaukee, which entered Wednesday a game back in the race, won its game at Miami. The Mets also won their game to pull even with the Phillies in the crowded wild-card race.
The Phillies have 17 games left.
The Phillies got excellent work from their bullpen after starter Zach Eflin did not make it through the fourth inning. Eflin gave up all three of the Braves' runs and they were all unearned.
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The Phillies had just three singles through the first eight innings. They had a pair of infield hits in the ninth, but could not push any runs across.
It appears as if much of sporting Philadelphia has inoculated itself against wild-card fever. The announced attendance was just 23,243, smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park. Capacity is 42,792.
Attendance was 25,071 and 24,220 in the first two games of the series.
The right-hander entered the game riding a streak of three strong starts in which he had success featuring his two-seam fastball. Eflin continued to use the pitch, though he leaned on his slider and four-seam fastball significantly, as well. Command was a problem for Eflin. He ran a high pitch count and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs, all on a three-run homer by Tyler Flowers with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. Flowers hit a 2-2 four-seam fastball. All of the runs were unearned after an error by shortstop Jean Segura.
Veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel pitched very well for the second time in two starts this season against the Phillies. He allowed just three hits and a run over six innings.
Keuchel remained a free agent until June. The Phillies considered the idea of signing him, but in the end weren't all that interested. He signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Braves and is now 8-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for them. In other words, he's been a very nice pickup.
One of the knocks against Keuchel as he lingered on the free-agent market last winter was that his strikeout totals had come down while his hits per nine innings had swelled. Keuchel's stuff played well in this one. He got 10 swings and misses, mostly on his slider and changeup, and struck out eight.
After Keuchel left, the Braves got three scoreless innings from the trio of Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon. All three joined the Braves in trades at the July deadline.
Big missed chance
Down by two runs, the Phillies had Keuchel on the ropes in the fifth inning. He allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin then walked Jean Segura and hit J.T. Realmuto with a pitch to load the bases for Bryce Harper. The Phils had the man they wanted at the plate, but Keuchel was up to the challenge. He got Harper to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play for the game's biggest out.
The Phils had another threat with two outs in the bottom of the eighth but it ended when Rhys Hoskins stroked a soft liner to shortstop.
Hot bat down
Corey Dickerson, who came into the game with 34 RBIs in his first 33 games with the Phillies, left the game in the sixth inning with left foot soreness. Losing him for any amount of time would hurt.
The series concludes on Thursday night with Drew Smyly (3-6, 6.65) taking on Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran (10-8, 3.31).
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