Matt Moore

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

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

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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.

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

phillies-giants-small-stream-slide-game2.jpg
CSN/USA Today Images

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

Phillies (43-76) at Giants (49-74)
10:15 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

What had the makings of a successful week out west has not come to fruition for the Phillies, who were swept by lowly San Diego and dropped Game 1 of their four-game series to the San Francisco Giants last night.

Aaron Nola's run of dominance came to an end — he's human, after all — and the Phillies fell just short against Jeff Samardzija and the Giants' pen.

But still, there was a lot to like last night.

1. Hoskins getting comfortable
After homering three times in San Diego, Rhys Hoskins found other ways to produce Thursday in San Fran. 

Playing in the toughest outfield in baseball, Hoskins made an impressive running catch in front of the left-center field warning track on a ball in the gap. He looked like a natural leftfielder on that play. Later in the game, he threw out Buster Posey trying to go first to third on a single.

Hoskins also singled twice and finished the night 2 for 3 with a walk. The lone out he made shouldn't have even been an out. Hoskins opened the eighth inning with a line shot down the third-base line that appeared to bounce over the bag in fair territory but was called foul. That type of play is not reviewable, so instead of an inning-opening double, Hoskins eventually popped out to shallow center.

Hoskins looks like the real deal, not just because of the power but because of the patience he continues to show at the plate. The Phillies don't have enough players who work counts and don't let pitchers get away with mistakes.

2. Williams keeps hitting
Last night was Nick Williams' 40th game and he continues to show no signs of slowing down. He crushed a solo home run to right-center field off Samardzija last night for his sixth homer and 25th RBI.

Williams is hitting .291/.348/.507 — better numbers than he had in the minors.

The 431-foot home run really stood out because of how difficult it is to go deep at AT&T Park. Entering last night, there had been 23 fewer homers hit there than any other park in the majors and 70 fewer homers than the league average.

Williams runs well, defends all three outfield positions well, has hit for average and power and held his own against lefties. What's not to like? Williams is 10 for 33 (.303) off lefties with a triple and two homers.

There are a whole lot of question marks about the Phillies' future but their outfield appears to be set with Odubel Herrera in center and Williams and Aaron Altherr in the corners (once everyone is healthy).

3. Which Eflin will we see?
Zach Eflin makes his 11th start of the season tonight, matching his total from 2016. He's 1-4 with a 5.76 ERA this season and 4-9 with a 5.65 ERA in his career.

Eflin is coming off an uneven start against the Mets in which he mostly pitched well but was hurt by two home runs. He just didn't command the ball low in the zone, as evidenced by the career-low three groundballs he generated.

The last time Eflin pitched in spacious AT&T Park, he allowed just an unearned run over six innings. 

Current Giants have gone 7 for 21 (.333) off Eflin with two doubles (both by Nick Hundley) and a homer (Brandon Crawford).

The Phillies have some decisions to make this winter with the starting pitching staff. Nola is obviously a lock, as is Jerad Eickhoff in the back of the rotation. Nick Pivetta has enough stuff to warrant a long look again in 2018. But beyond that? The Phillies don't know if they can rely on Vince Velasquez, who has struggled with injuries and inefficiency. They don't know about Eflin's long-term outlook; some nights he's brilliant, some nights he doesn't look like a viable starting pitcher. Jake Thompson has taken steps back. Ben Lively has flashed some things but does he have a sustainable repertoire?

It would seem to behoove the Phillies to add a few veteran starting pitchers this offseason via trade or free agency. I don't mean a Clay Buchholz-type, either. We talk a lot about that flashy 2018-19 free-agent class, but the top guys aren't going to want to come here if the Phillies are still a 70-win team. Improving the starting pitching staff as these young position players continue to grow would be a way to move the needle forward.

4. Moore disappointment?
The Phillies face struggling Giants left-hander Matt Moore, who enters 3-12 with a 5.71 ERA. 

Moore was once one of the most intriguing young pitchers in baseball, but he hasn't been good since 2013. Walks are always an issue, and he's on track this season to allow more home runs than ever before. Moore has walked 50 and allowed 22 homers in 135⅔ innings this season.

The Phillies hit him around back on June 4, scoring five runs and chasing him after four innings. They also faced him last season in his very first start with the Giants. On that day, Moore walked six men in six innings but allowed just two runs.

Moore lacks an out-pitch against lefties, who have hit an insane .386/.448/.641 off of him this season. So don't expect Pete Mackanin to try to load up the lineup with righties, who have hit .259/.318/.455.

The only Phillie to ever take Moore deep is Freddy Galvis. Cesar Hernandez is 3 for 7 with two doubles, a triple and two walks. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies are 6-21 against the NL West. Again, that's the worst record for any major-league team against any division in 2017.

• The Phils are 19-45 on the road. That .297 winning percentage is their third-worst on the road since 1940.

• The Phillies are 2½ games worse than the next-worst team, the White Sox at 45-73.

• In 36 career games against the Phillies, Buster Posey has hit .394 with a .943 OPS. It's Posey's highest batting average against any team, but at least 45 of his 56 hits have been singles.

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jeremy Hellickson's turn to avoid Phils' 11th straight series loss

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jeremy Hellickson's turn to avoid Phils' 11th straight series loss

Phillies (18-35) vs. Giants (23-34)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies ended their losing streak at five Saturday with a strong outing from rookie Ben Lively and some clutch hits against Johnny Cueto and Giants' bullpen in a 5-3 win. They have a chance to end a string of 10 consecutive series losses with a win Sunday. Jeremy Hellickson takes the hill in opposition of lefty Matt Moore for the Giants.

Here are five things to know for the series finale,

1. Signs of hope
When the Phillies fell 18 games under .500 Friday, there was little, if anything, positive to take away from the game. They were shutout by a rookie starter and Jerad Eickhoff failed to get out of the third inning.

Saturday was much more uplifting for the Phils.

The main takeaway is that Ben Lively can hang in the rotation for a little while. The 25-year-old rookie held his own for seven innings despite not striking out a batter. A few timely double plays helped as he gave up just one run. What a wonder keeping the ball in the park can do for a team. He faces the Braves his next time out, so he gets an opportunity against another sub-par offense before he receives a big challenge.

But it wasn't just Lively coming up big for the Phils on Saturday. Maikel Franco had the Phillies' first hit — a double — and led off the seventh inning with a single before coming around to score the go-ahead run. Later in that same inning, the similarly maligned Odubel Herrera lined a three-run double — his second two-bagger of the game with another bat flip to boot — to provide a four-run lead. The Phillies need those two going if they're going to reverse course this month.

Pat Neshek was solid again but the Phils got a bad outing from Hector Neris. However, Jeanmar Gomez seems to have earned himself some trust and clinched the save, getting the final out. If Gomez can become reliable again, that would help make up for Joaquin Benoit's absence in the short term, giving the team a better back-end moving forward.

2. Turning to Hellickson
Hellickson could use some signs of hope after a lackluster May.

Granted, it wasn't a bad month compared to the rest of the team, but it was a struggle nonetheless. He had a 7.04 ERA in six starts and had a 1.533 WHIP in 30 2/3 innings. He gave up nine home runs and walked 12 while striking out just 13 batters. 

And that follows the trend of his year as a whole. He's given up home runs at a higher rate than last season while striking out less than half as many per nine innings. Therefore, he's at the mercy of balls in play and he hasn't induced as much weak contact in his recent starts, including a 4-1 loss to the Marlins last Monday.

It's becoming harder and harder to see Hellickson as someone worth giving an offer large enough that would put the Phillies in line for draft pick compensation if he leaves in the offseason. Therefore, the team could make a larger effort to trade him at the deadline, which is also made tougher by his recent results.

He's 2-2 with 2.86 ERA over 22 innings vs. Giants in his career. Last season, he threw six innings of one-run ball last season to earn a victory in San Francisco, outdueling Madison Bumgarner.

Among Giants batters, Brandon Crawford is 4 for 10 against him while Aaron Hill is 3 for 9 with a walk. Brandon Belt is 3 for 6. 

3. Moore pitches, Moore problems
Last year, the Giants acquired the 27-year-old lefty at the deadline and they haven't gotten the performance they were looking for from Moore this season.

The southpaw is just 2-6 with 4.98 ERA over 11 starts and 65 innings. Like Hellickson, he has struggled with home runs, surrendering 11. Walks and control have been an issue his entire career (he once led the American League in wild pitches) and that's no different this year. However, he was an All-Star pitcher with so-so control in 2013, but that was pre-arm surgery.

Moore underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, a year after his best season, and he hasn't quite been the same since. He hasn't had a season with an above-average ERA since before surgery.

The lefty lives in the low 90s with a four-seam fastball and mixes in an 89 mph cutter. He has a knuckle curve and a changeup in the low 80s to change speeds.

He's 0-1 with 5.06 ERA in two starts against the Phillies. Last season, he gave up two runs in six innings while walking six batters. Howie Kendrick is 7 for 20 with a double, two walks and an HBP against Moore. Cesar Hernandez is 2 for 5 with a double and triple and Michael Saunders is 3 for 8 with a home run. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Franco had his first two-hit game with an extra-base hit since May 4 on Saturday. The double was his first extra-base hit since May 21.

Giants: First baseman Belt has always had a good eye and has drawn 34 walks this year, but he's also seen an uptick in home runs with 10 already. His career-high is 18, which came in 2015.

5. This and that
• The Phillies haven't won a series since April 26-27, when they swept two games against the Marlins

• They've lost 26 of their last 33 and had lost 15 of 18 before Saturday's win. The Phils haven't been swept at home in a three-game series since April 10-12 vs. the Mets.

• The Phillies are 25th in baseball with a .395 team slugging percentage. The good news? The Giants are last with a .352 mark. In second to last is the team that the Giants beat in the 2014 World Series: The Royals.