Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

The Phillies suffered a demoralizing 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon.

Bryce Harper hit a three-run home run against Joaquin Benoit on a full-count pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Nats the win. Harper hit two homers on the day.

For the second game in a row, the Phillies rallied in the late innings to take a lead.

The Phils scored two in the eighth and one in the ninth to take a 4-3 lead.

Cesar Hernandez, the hero of Saturday's win with a two-run homer in the eighth, was one of three Phillies with a hit in Sunday's eighth-inning rally. Daniel Nava also had a hit in the inning and Tommy Joseph singled home the tying run with two outs. The Phils also benefited from an error by Jayson Werth in the inning.

The Phils took the lead in the ninth on a leadoff double by Aaron Altherr, a groundout by Odubel Herrera and an RBI fielder's choice groundball by Freddy Galvis. Altherr scored on the play, diving across home plate as the throw from second base got away from catcher Matt Wieters.

Benoit allowed a one-out walk and a one-out single before Harper's homer with two outs.

Starting pitching report
Jerad Eickhoff gave up eight hits and three runs over six innings. He struck out five.

Eickhoff lost a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he gave up back-to-back doubles to the first two batters he faced.

In the third, he got ahead of Anthony Rendon, 0-2, before giving up an infield hit. The play at first was reviewed and the Phillies lost the challenge after a delay of 100 seconds. Eickhoff then emerged from the delay and threw a first-pitch slider that Harper crushed for a two-run homer.

Eickhoff has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 11 straight starts, dating to last season. The last Phillies starter to do that was Cole Hamels in 2014.

Run support is still a problem for Eickhoff. He has made 44 starts for the Phillies and the team has averaged just 3.79 runs while he's been in the game.

Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez gave up three runs, one of which was unearned, in 7 1/3 innings.

Gonzalez gave up just three hits and a run through seven innings and took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the eighth. He gave up two one-out hits and both turned into runs as the Phillies tied the game. However, only one of the runs was earned as an error by left fielder Jayson Werth loomed large.

In his last five starts against the Phils, dating to last season, Gonzalez has allowed just six earned runs in 33 2/3 innings.

Bullpen report
Joely Rodriguez and Pat Neshek pitched scoreless ball before Benoit blew up. Coda Glover gave up the game-tying single to Joseph.

The run was charged to Gonzalez.

Blake Treinen was in line for the loss before Harper's heroics.

At the plate
Hernandez had three hits. He led off the game with a solo homer, the first of his big-league career from the right side of the plate. That was the Phillies' only run until the eighth when they rallied for a pair of runs to tie the game.

Hernandez has three homers on the season and two have led off games. He had just six homers last season.

Altherr's huge leadoff double in the ninth came with him starting in center field in place of Herrera, who did not start for the first time all season. Herrera pinch-hit in the ninth and appeared to hurt himself running.

Harper had five RBIs with a pair of homers.

Health check
Left fielder Howie Kendrick was out of the starting lineup because of soreness near his ribs. He landed hard making a diving catch in Saturday's game. Brock Stassi got the start in left field.

Up next
The Phillies are off on Monday. They open a three-game series in New York against the Mets on Tuesday night. The Mets are 29-12 against the Phils since the start of 2015.

The Phils named Zach Eflin as their starting pitcher for Tuesday night's game. He will come up from Triple A to take the place of injured Clay Buchholz. Zack Wheeler (1-1, 7.45) will pitch for the Mets.

On Wednesday night, Vince Velasquez (0-2, 9.00) will oppose Robert Gsellman (0-1, 9.28)

On Thursday night, Aaron Nola (1-0, 3.27) will face Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.95)

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.