PITTSBURGH - The Phillies modest two-game winning streak came to an end in a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday night.
Starter Zach Eflin did not pitch well in a short outing (he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning) but lack of offense was the main reason for the loss.
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The Phils had just three hits (all singles) and their only run was unearned. They grounded into two double plays, struck out 11 times and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
The Pirates had 13 hits.
Ninety-nine games into the season, the Phillies are 51-48. They need a victory on Sunday to win the series.
The right-hander threw six pitches - all strikes - in a quick first inning, but he was tagged for two doubles, two singles and three runs in the third inning and the Phillies didn't have enough offense to recover.
Eflin has allowed 16 earned runs in 13 innings over his last three starts.
Tough to handle
Phillies hitters had a tough time with Joe Musgrove, the right-hander acquired by the Pirates from Houston in the Gerrit Cole deal. Musgrove held the Phils to two hits and an unearned run over six innings. He walked two and struck out eight. Musgrove got 14 swinging strikes, including eight on his curveball and slider. The Phils appeared to have something going against Musgrove in the fourth when Jean Segura was hit by a pitch and Bryce Harper walked with one out. But Musgrove retired Rhys Hoskins on a fly ball to center and struck out J.T. Realmuto to end the threat.
With his team down 3-1 with one out and a runner on third base in the top of the fifth inning, manager Gabe Kapler lifted Eflin for pinch-hitter Nick Williams. It was a roll of the dice that early in the game, but the Phils only had one hit at that point and Williams was someone who could deliver a sacrifice fly or possibly tie the game with one swing. Also, Kapler had some length sitting out in the bullpen in Nick Pivetta. Williams' at-bat was preceded by a 28-minute pop-up rain delay and that gave armchair strategists plenty of time to dissect Kapler's decision. In the end, Williams and the next hitter, Scott Kingery, struck out, but Kapler's gamble was understandable on a night when the Phillies had trouble scoring runs.
Pivetta's bullpen debut
He allowed three hits and a run in two innings of work. Pivetta made a wild throw to third base after a comebacker to the mound and that cost him the only run he allowed. He was demoted to the bullpen one day earlier (see story).
The new guy
Reliever Mike Morin, acquired in a cash deal from the Twins earlier in the day, allowed two doubles and a run in his Phillies debut.
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. New pickup Drew Smyly will get the start for the Phillies. The Pirates were not going to announce their starter until after Saturday night's game.
The Phils will have to subtract a player to make room for Smyly on the roster.
The Phillies are off Monday. They visit Detroit for a quick two-game series against the Tigers on Tuesday night.
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