Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

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Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

BOX SCORE

Cliff Lee was brilliant. Julio Teheran was one pitch better.
 
Lee threw a career-high 128 pitches, struck out 13 and allowed one run in nine gutsy innings, but he was out-dueled Wednesday night by the 23-year-old righty, who scattered three hits in shutting out the Phillies 1-0 at chilly Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The only run of the game came in the top of the fourth, when Braves catcher Evan Gattis smacked an 0-2 fastball just over the left-field wall. It was the second of Gattis’ four hits.
 
“I had to battle,” Lee said. “I had to work a lot with guys on base. I had a good changeup going today that I threw a lot and got a lot of good results out of it. But the pitch to Gattis, I made a mistake.
 
“It was 0-2, he had just fouled off the previous fastball that was in the same spot. He fouled it straight back, he was right on it and I tried to elevate a fastball. It wasn't a bad spot, but it wasn't the spot I was trying to go to -- down and in.

“He's a big strong guy, and he's not swinging easy and when he connects it's usually hit pretty hard. I think a lot of guys hit that same ball with the same trajectory, and it's not going to be a homer. But he's strong enough to get enough behind it to get it out of here. I've just got to make a better pitch. That's the only thing I can do about it."
 
Teheran retired 23 of the first 24 batters he faced, allowing only a fifth-inning infield single to Ryan Howard through 7⅔ innings.
 
He needed only 79 pitches to get through seven innings, then struggled through the final two innings. Jimmy Rollins singled with two outs in the ninth and stole second, but Chase Utley’s sharp grounder to second ended it on Teheran’s 115th pitch.
 
“The cold didn’t bother me,” he said. “When it’s cold, I try to focus even more and not pay attention to the weather.”
 
Teheran is only the sixth pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout against the Phillies in the last eight years. It was his first career complete game.

Teheran (2-1, 1.93) has now allowed only six earned runs and 23 hits in 28 innings this year.

He became only the fifth pitcher to throw a shutout allowing three or fewer hits against the Phillies in the last eight years.
 
The last time the Phils were blanked on three hits or less at home was May 14, 2003, when Curt Schilling, then with the Diamondbacks, two-hit them at the Vet.

“Both pitchers were unbelievable,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Lee was excellent. The homer just got over the fence. Teheran was terrific. He was dominating. He threw a great pitch to Utley to end it.
 
“It was the kind of game you live on every pitch. He deserved to go out in the ninth. It wasn’t a tough decision.”
 
Lee came back out for the ninth despite throwing 114 pitches through eight. He gave up a couple singles, fanned Jason Heyward with one out and second and third, then got B.J. Upton to pop out on his 128th pitch.
 
That’s the most pitches by any Phillies starter since Roy Halladay threw 130 against the Padres in 2011.
 
“I felt like I did what I needed to do, you’ve got to give credit to the opposing pitcher,” Lee said. “We didn’t score, he shut us out, so he was obviously doing something right.”

Lee became the first pitcher in major-league history to lose two games in which he struck out 13 or more batters and allowed one run. Those two games are his last two starts against the Braves -- last Sept. 27 in Atlanta and Wednesday night. In those two games, Lee pitched 17 innings, struck out 26, walked one and lost both.

“All I can worry about is making pitches and throwing strikes, and I can’t worry about the guys behind me making plays,” Lee said. “I assume they’re going to, and I assume we’re going to hit and score runs. Occasionally, you run into a pitcher that’s on top of what he’s doing, like tonight, and he shut us out, and that’s part of the game.
 
“Looking back on it, I made a mistake on the one pitch that cost me a run, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to do a better job than that on an 0-2 count.
 
“I’d rather give up three or four runs and us get the win, but it didn’t happen that way.”
 
Lee has allowed only three earned runs over 22 innings in his last three starts but has only one win to show for it.
 
“He pitched one heck of a game,” Ben Revere said. “I mean, it was phenomenal. Everyone in here is frustrated, just because he pitches so well and gets the loss.
 
“But with that, we know we need to come out and pick him up the next time. It’s just frustrating.”

Lee said it was important for him to come out and pitch the ninth, even though he had already thrown 114 pitches.
 
“I felt strong on the last pitch and I felt strong on the first pitch,” he said. “That’s what you want to do, you want to be a guy that they’re going to let go back out there after you’ve thrown 100-plus pitches and pitch the ninth inning.
 
“That’s what I expect to do, and I’m glad they allow me to do that. That’s what I work in the offseason for and prepare my body to do, so it’s not anything that’s that crazy to me.”

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's turn to face West Coast struggles

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's turn to face West Coast struggles

Phillies (43-77) at Giants (50-74)
9:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies dropped their sixth straight game Friday night and fell to 0-5 on their West Coast road trip. The last-place Giants raced out to a quick lead against Zach Eflin and beat the Phils handily, 10-2.

Jerad Eickhoff, who left with the Phillies leading Monday, looks to continue his recent success against Ty Blach and the Giants in a Saturday night affair.

Here are five things to know for the game.

1. Eickhoff quietly improving
You wouldn't know it just looking at his 4.33 ERA, but Eickhoff has put together a strong stretch in recent weeks.

In his last five starts, which dates back to July 23, he's thrown 28 2/3 innings with allowing just nine earned runs, good for a 2.83 ERA. In that span, he's notched three quality starts and has 25 strikeouts. While he's limited opponents to just one home run, he's still walked 12. He's lowered his ERA by half a run in this time.

You certainly have to factor in the level of competition. Beyond a struggling yet potent Milwaukee offense, he pitched against Atlanta twice, a weak Angels lineup (which does feature Mike Trout) and the lackluster Padres. The Giants aren't much better, so it's not hard to see him extending his recent success. 

Eickhoff's mini-roll has been easy to overlook with Aaron Nola's dominant summer and Eickhoff being a 27-year-old on a team looking toward even younger players. But you can't forget that he was their best starter last season and should be able to hit at least 150 innings, a year after throwing 197 1/3. 

He's no ace, but that's not what he's asked to be. He's an average to slightly above-average starter and there's plenty of value in that. And if you're comparing him to last season, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is actually better in 2017 than 2016, indicating he's been a little unlucky this year.

Eickhoff started against Blach in June and put together his worst start of the season, giving up 11 baserunners and five runs while recording just eight outs. He didn't give up any home runs, but he walked five batters and struck out just two. 

Denard Span went 3 for 3 vs. Eickhoff while Eduardo Nunez, who's since been traded, was 2 for 2 with a walk. Blach even walked twice in two plate appearances.

2. Back with Blach
While Eickhoff had his worst start of the year against Blach and the Giants, Blach had one of the best, if not the best, starts of his young career (the other option being eight innings of shutout ball vs. the Dodgers down the stretch last season). 

He threw a seven-hit shutout. He struck out four, walked none and needed 112 pitches to dispatch the Phillies in just five batters more than the minimum. He was the first of three pitchers (Carlos Martinez, Clayton Richard) to throw shutouts against the Phillies this season.

And the soft-tossing lefty started out the season in the bullpen. He made four appearances (two starts) down the stretch in 2016 and was filling a minor role in the Giants' bullpen this April. However, he was given a full-time spot in the rotation once Madison Bumgarner injured his shoulder, and he hasn't looked back.

He leads all rookies with 134 innings pitched. He's 14th out of 34 rookie starters in ERA (4.37) but he's fourth in wins above replacement (WAR), likely because of his durability and his innings total as much as his effectiveness.

Outside of his gem at Citizens Bank Park, he's been quite hittable on the road. Home is where he's been at his best with a 3.60 ERA compared to a 5.50 mark away from AT&T Park. That's because he doesn't strike many batters out, walks only a few, and really relies on his fielders. Therefore, he's a great beneficiary of playing at one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in baseball, where a fly-ball pitcher like Blach can truly excel. 

The 26-year-old southpaw works off a 90-mph fastball and 80-mph changeup, working in a 12-6 curve and occasional slider.

Cesar Hernandez and Cameron Rupp each picked up two hits against Blach in June, while Maikel Franco had one as well (Howie Kendrick had the other two).

3. Don't go west, young men
When the Phillies have traveled to the opposite coast this season, their destiny has manifested itself in plenty of misfortune and poor play. 

After the 10-2 loss Friday night, they are now 4-16 west of Texas, suffering sweeps at the hands of the Dodgers, Angels and Padres. They also went 2-5 combined against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, salvaging a two-game sweep against the Mariners in their western escapades. 

A lot of it's easy to parse out: Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies are all playoff teams. Angels are currently tied for the second wild card in the American League. 

But the showing this week has been especially painful. The Phils took two of three from the Giants in June, one of their rare series wins, and the Padres are a team that isn't designed to compete in 2017. These aren't just the worst teams in the NL West, they're two of the worst in baseball and the Phillies are cementing themselves in the cellar of the National League with this poor trip out west.

In San Diego and San Francisco, they've been outscored, 33-14, by the teams that are 28th and 30th, respectively, in OPS. 

Luckily for the Phils, they've got no more West Coast trips left after this weekend and only 14 of their last 40 games are on the road. That's plenty of games at CBP, where they are a much more respectable 24-31 (compared to 19-46 on the road).

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Rhys Hoskins is just 2 for 12 with three walks against left-handed pitchers, but both hits are home runs. 

Giants: After going 2 for 4 Friday night with a double and home run, Hunter Pence has a six-game hitting streak going. He has six multi-hit games this month and is batting .351 in August.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have faced 19 teams this year and have a winning record against only one of them (Atlanta).

• Checking in with some recent former Phillies: Jeremy Hellickson allowed five home runs to the Angels on Friday night, including one to New Jersey's own Trout.

• Now with the Nationals, Kendrick has hit even better than he did with the Phillies. Going into Friday's action, he had a .353/.400/.667 batting line with four home runs.

• Pat Neshek has struck out seven batters in 6 1/3 innings, but he's allowed five runs (three earned). He's given up 10 hits, though he's yet to walk a batter.

• Lastly, Joaquin Benoit has had a rough go of it in Pittsburgh. He has an 11.81 ERA, giving up nine runs (seven earned) in just 5 1/3 innings. The 40-year-old reliever has as many hit-by-pitches as strikeouts with the Pirates.

Zach Eflin leaves with sore shoulder as Phillies' California woes continue

Zach Eflin leaves with sore shoulder as Phillies' California woes continue

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The state of California has become the state of despair for the Phillies.

They fell to 0-11 in the state after a 10-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Phils suffered three-game sweeps against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Angels in Anaheim and the Padres in San Diego. They have now lost the first two of a four-game series against the Giants in the northern part of the state.

Friday night's defeat was the Phillies' sixth straight, dropping them to a season-high 34 games under .500. They are 19-46 on the road and 6-22 against the National League West.

The loss was embarrassing because the Phils were held to one hit over seven scoreless innings by the pitcher with the highest ERA in the NL. Giants lefty Matt Moore entered with an ERA of 5.71. The Phils finished with just four hits, all singles.

The loss may also have been costly because starting pitcher Zach Eflin, one of the young pitchers the Phillies would like to build around, gave up seven hits and six runs and had to leave the game after five innings with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. Earlier this season, Eflin, 23, missed time with an elbow strain.

Eflin said he'd felt soreness in the back of this shoulder before.

"This is a little different than I've had before," Eflin said. "It's just kind of a steady tightness. It's something I wasn't comfortable continuing with. I don't think it's anything serious. It's more of a precautionary thing."

The shoulder tightness didn't affect Eflin's velocity. He threw breaking balls early in the game and gave up three runs in the first inning. In the fourth inning, he used his four-seam fastball and hit 96 mph on the radar gun while getting three quick outs. Manager Pete Mackanin said he'd like to see more of that from Eflin. Of course, now it's safe to wonder when Eflin will pitch again. The Phils will surely be careful with him.

The Phillies are already making some adjustments to their starting rotation. Right-hander Ben Lively will be recalled from Triple A to take Odubel Herrera's spot on the roster. Herrera went on the disabled list with a sore left hamstring (see story). Lively will start against the Giants on Sunday while scheduled starter Mark Leiter Jr. goes to the bullpen.

The Phillies were never in Friday night's game. They got three of their four hits and both of their runs (on a bloop hit by Freddy Galvis) in the eighth inning and the Giants came back and scored four in the bottom of the inning.

Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro had the Phillies' first two hits of the game, the only two that Moore gave up. Moore (4-12) earned his first win since June 20.

In a span of three days, the Phillies have been held to two runs over 16 1/3 innings by a pair of lefties with high ERAs. They were shut out by Clayton Richard in San Diego on Wednesday. He entered that game with a 5.14 ERA.

"It's frustrating when you look up at the numbers and you see that," Mackanin said. "You kind of hope we can get to the guy. But for whatever reason, the bats are just silent right now."

The Phillies' offense has been bad all season, but it has been especially bad lately. Over the last nine games, they have scored just 25 runs, an average of 2.8 per game. The Phils are 1-8 in those contests.