Lee, Phils Out to Plunder First Series Win From Bucs

Lee, Phils Out to Plunder First Series Win From Bucs

This is what makes facing the Phillies so daunting. There was never really any doubt that Roy Halladay would take care of business on Opening Day, and he surely did not disappoint. The Pirates were held to two hits, zero runs thanks to the combination of Doc, and brand new closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Against most teams, you brush that off, and go after the next guy.

Except the next guy for Philadelphia is Cliff Lee.

The 2008 AL Cy Young winner had another phenomenal season in 2011, one during which he was almost literally untouchable for months at a time, specifically June and August. His 17 wins were good for fourth in the NL, his 2.40 ERA third. He was third with a 1.027 WHIP, sixth with 7.6 hits per nine, second with 238 strikeouts, first with six complete game shutouts -- you get the picture. Batters are better off walking the plank than up to the plate.

Lee's last start against the Pirates was on July 30 at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed four runs on eight hits in 7.2 innings of work, but struck out 11 and picked up the win in a 7-4 victory. In his lone start at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, Lee earned a no decision with the Indians in 2010, giving up two over seven frames.

While the Phillies didn't exactly demonstrate a potent offense on Opening Day, you'll usually take Cliff Lee over whoever marches out under the opposite team's flag -- in this case, Jeff Karstens.

Karstens is coming off of a career year despite struggling mightily from fatigue down the stretch. A product of the New York Yankees farm system, the righthander was 8-8 in 26 starts last season, and 9-9 in 30 appearances with a 3.38 ERA. He doesn't strike many batters out (5.3 SO/9), but the 29 year old was third in the NL while giving 1.83 free passes per nine. Only Halladay and Lee were better, with Cole Hamels right behind them.

Karstens had a good spring, and should be able to pick up where he left off in the first half last year.

Batter vs. Pitcher

A couple players who have given Karstens his share of trouble though are Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence. Rollins is 6-for-13 lifetime against Karstens, including 4-for-7 with two RBIs and one run in 2011. Pence has solid career numbers -- 8-for-21 with a home run -- but cooled off considerably versus Karstens last season, going 3-for-11 with zero extra base hits. Still, look for the heart of the armada to fire some shots tonight.

Both have had success running against Karstens as well. Rollins and Pence each have two stolen bases in five combined attempts. The Phils did not run too much on lefty Erik Bedard on Thursday, with Shane Victorino picking up the club's lone stolen base, but looting from the Bucs on the base paths could be a bigger part of the game plan in game two.

Inside the Box Score

Freddy Galvis went 0-for-4 in his Major League debut on Thursday, which was half expected to be honest. However, they are going to need more from him going forward, even batting out of the eight hole.

All four Galvis outs ended an inning -- two on routine ground ball double plays -- leaving Roy Halladay to lead off three times. Doc made the best of a bad situation, going 1-for-3 himself, but no matter how well Phillies pitchers hit, the offense must get better at turning the lineup over, now more than ever.

This is by mo means intended to kill the 22 year old. Galvis appeared in just 33 games at Triple A last season, and suddenly finds himself Opening Day second baseman for the big club. Credit the Pirates Erik Bedard for a strong outing as well, the veteran pitcher putting the rookie in his place (0-3, 2 DP).

That said, it's a situation to monitor. Galvis had a decent spring, batting .280 with nine runs and 14 RBIs, so there's no reason to think he can't handle it. This is the real deal though, and the Phillies have to do the little things to win this year.

Starting Lineup

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

BOX SCORE

For a moment Sunday afternoon, Citizens Bank Park sprung to life as the Phillies strung together five hits in a four-run second inning.

But four home runs off starter Zach Eflin sent the Phillies to another defeat and Eflin to Lehigh Valley.

Eflin was optioned to Triple A following the Phillies' 8-4 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just five innings of work (see Instant Replay)

"His first two-three outings were really good," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was keeping the ball down, but his last three, including today, he's elevating his sinker and once you elevate that sinker, it doesn't have the effect that you'd like to have."

The Phillies have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games and handed the Reds their first series win at CBP since August 2006.  

Eflin got off to a rocky start Sunday with three first-inning singles, allowing one run. He escaped further damage but then proceeded to give up a home run in each of his final four innings. The final home run — Adam Duvall's second on the day — came on an 0-2 pitch and extended Cincinnati's lead to 7-4. All of the Reds' hits off Eflin came on fastballs as their potent lineup feasted on his pitches high in the zone.

Two weeks ago, Eflin's ERA stood at 2.87 as he kept opponents in the ballpark with his hard sinker. However, starting with a May 17 outing in Texas, Eflin has allowed 22 runs in his last 15 innings. He's given up seven homers in his last two starts and at least nine hits in five consecutive outings as his ERA ballooned to 6.13. With Sunday's results, the Phillies were left little choice but to option the 23-year-old righty while he deals with a rough patch.

"There are some things I need to work on," Eflin said. "I need to do a better job of pitching backward, especially in fastball counts. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go down there, work on everything I need to work on and get back as soon as possible."

The Phillies will reinstate Howie Kendrick (oblique) off the 10-day disabled list Monday, Mackanin said, in a corresponding move after the veteran IF/OF completed a four-game rehab stint (see story)

Kendrick could help boost an offense that is scuffling. After a four-run second inning highlighted by Andrew Knapp's 434-foot three-run home run, the Phillies' bats fell silent. They strung together five more hits. However, three double plays and a few untimely strikeouts killed any further rallies.

The Phillies left a potential run stranded on third base in the fifth inning as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr struck out against starter Scott Feldman, who waded into and out of trouble in five innings of work. Herrera went 0 for 4 with that strikeout, continuing to slump. His average has fallen to .217.

With Kendrick returning, Mackanin indicated he would give Herrera some days off soon to help him relax amid mounting pressure to hit.

"He's scuffling. A couple guys scuffling," Mackanin said. "I'll probably move him down in the lineup. I can't keep him in the two-hole. But he has to fight his way out. 

"We'll see when Kendrick gets here. We're going to have another outfielder. I'm going to mix and match and try to get everybody in there. Kendrick, I'm going to bring along slowly because I want to make sure he's healthy.

"In other words, I don't have a set outfield. I'm going to mix those guys up."

On the infield, Maikel Franco continued his slide Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The slugger is hitting .213 this month, just as he did in April, but his power is down with just two home runs. Kendrick, who only played left field in April, played third base while at Triple A, so he could potentially spell Franco as well.

"He hit a ball hard today but he's not giving us consistent at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's searching both physically and mentally. It's not easy for him. I can tell he's down on himself. He's not happy about what's going on."

The Phillies came into this week struggling and were unable to rebound against the Rockies and Reds, losing five of seven. They averaged just 2.42 runs during the homestand.

However, the bigger problem comes in the rotation. The team gave up 5.71 runs per game in their last seven despite a 23 2/3 inning scoreless streak from the bullpen. The rotation's struggles continue to plague the team as they carry the worst record in baseball into Miami for a three-game set starting Monday.

"I certainly expected more out of our starters," Mackanin said. "We've had some issues with [Aaron] Nola's arm and Clay Buchholz going down. Although [Jerad] Eickhoff is going to end up having a good year in my opinion. He's been a little bit hot and cold.

"And Eflin, I counted on him to have a big year this year. I think if he gets himself straightened out down in Triple A, I think he's going to come back strong. But certainly, I can't sit here and say I'm happy with [his performance]."

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

Zach Eflin allowed a career-high four home runs and the Phillies were outslugged by the Cincinnati Reds in an 8-4 defeat Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games. The Reds, who took two of three, picked up their first series win at CBP since August 2006.

Eflin was roughed up for the third consecutive start. The Reds tagged him for seven runs in just five innings. After three hits led to a run in the first inning, he gave up home runs in each of his last four frames. Following the game, Eflin was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Jeanmar Gomez allowed a solo home run in relief. 

Andrew Knapp gave the Phillies an early lead with a three-run homer during a four-run second inning. However, three double plays stifled the Phillies' offense, which was held scoreless after the second inning. 

Scott Feldman improved to 4-4 with the win for the Reds. The Phils dropped to 17-31 while the Reds improved to 24-25. 

Starting pitching report
Eflin stumbled through five innings, allowing nine hits. He had held opponents to just four homers in first six starts but has now has let up seven in his last two appearances. Over his past three starts, Eflin's been tagged for 22 runs in 15 innings. He's given up at least nine hits in all five May starts. 

A poor sign for Eflin: Only two of his outs came on the ground. The Reds were all over his fastball and scored in each of his five innings. His ERA has gone from 2.81 to 6.13 since May 17.

Feldman labored through a 32-pitch second inning in which he gave up four runs. He settled down afterward with a pair of double plays to get through five innings. The veteran righty struck out the last two batters he faced with a man on third and one out.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia threw two shutout innings, striking out one. Jeanmar Gomez gave up rookie Patrick Kivlehan's second home run of the day in the ninth inning, snapping the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed three hits and the one run in two innings.

Blake Wood, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias each threw shutout innings in relief of Feldman.

At the plate
Manager Pete Mackanin wanted the Phillies to string together 4-5 hits and they did so in the second inning. Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders led off with back-to-back singles before Knapp drove them in with his 434-foot blast. Knapp laid off two high fastballs after falling behind 0-2 and drilled a curveball into the Phillies' bullpen.

Freddy Galvis followed with a double. Even Eflin aided the cause with his first career RBI on a run-scoring single. 

The top two in the order — Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera — went 0 for 8. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Saunders and Aaron Altherr each had two hits while Ty Kelly had a pinch-hit double.

Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Kivlehan combined for five home runs with Duvall and Kivlehan notching multi-hit games. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart extended their hitting streaks to 13 and 11 games, respectively, in the first inning.

Up next
The Phillies head on the road and begin a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, whom they beat twice in April at Citizens Bank Park.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. — Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 4.28) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-7, 4.82)

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.— Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) vs. Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34) vs. Dan Straily (3.83)