What Are the Phillies Doing? Digging a Hole in the NL East Race, That's What

Phillies starting to dig a hole, drop both games in Tampa originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies’ stagnant offense did little, their league-worst defense showed up again and Zach Eflin had his shortest start of the season in Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Rays.

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The Phillies have scored 12 runs in their last five games. They have gradually fallen to the bottom third of the majors in runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and home runs, all while leading the National League in strikeouts.

At 25-28, the Phillies are starting to dig a hole. They're four games behind the Mets in the NL East and six back in the wild-card race. It's still relatively early but this team hasn't inspired much hope of contending in 2021.

The Phils are 10-18 on the road as they head to Cincinnati for the final three games of this trip.

They loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate but Odubel Herrera lined out to center.

Eflin (2-5, 4.10) was not as sharp as usual and the Rays fouled off 40% of the strikes he threw. He gave up two runs in the second on a Mike Zunino line-drive home run, then allowed three straight two-out hits in the fifth before being pulled.

Tampa Bay’s pair of second-inning runs may not have scored if not for another miscue in the field by Alec Bohm. He was stationed near shortstop on a shift against left-handed-hitting Austin Meadows and overran a catchable ball in foul ground. Meadows walked and later scored on a two-run homer by Zunino, who might not have even come up in the inning if Bohm made the play.

Bohm, who grounded into his MLB-leading 12th double play the prior half-inning, was consoled in the dugout by Didi Gregorius.

The Phillies gave the Rays another run with bad defense in the seventh when Brad Miller sailed a throw home that allowed a second run to score.

There's no need to sugarcoat this: The 2021 Phillies' defense is horrible and there's no realistic path to significant improvement without significant changes in personnel.

The Phillies scored two runs in the sixth on a sac fly from J.T. Realmuto and an RBI double by Brad Miller.

Joe Girardi’s lineup change did not spark a sputtering offense. Andrew McCutchen, hitting .150 over a three-week span entering Sunday’s game, was moved from leadoff to sixth. It was the lowest McCutchen has hit in the order in his time as a Phillie and just his second start of 154 outside the leadoff spot.

McCutchen is hitting .199 on the season. Bohm is hitting .205. Bryce Harper and Gregorius are on the injured list. Four of the Phillies’ top six offensive players are either currently out of the picture or ineffective.

Next comes a three-game road series against a 22-28 Reds team that hasn’t played well lately, either. 

Vince Velasquez faces left-hander Wade Miley in Game 1 Monday at 2:10 p.m.

Aaron Nola goes up against Sonny Gray in Game 2 Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.

Spencer Howard pitches the series finale against rookie Vladimir Gutierrez Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.

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