The Phillies celebrated Memorial Day with a first-place lead and a record that was nine-games over .500. They arrived to the Fourth of July with just a half-game separating them from third place. Where will they be on Labor Day? The Phillies followed Tuesday night’s impressive start by Aaron Nola with a clunker Wednesday from Nick Pivetta. They’ll need Zach Eflin to deliver tonight if they are to pick up any ground this week on the Braves. If not, they could arrive to the Fifth of July in third place.

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Juan Nicasio may need to go on the IL.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Juan Nicasio may need to go on the IL.

Heavily used Juan Nicasio could be hurt

Not only did the Phillies lose on Wednesday night, but they seem likely to lose one of their most used relievers for an extended period.

Juan Nicasio, who was hit around in the sixth inning, has a mild left-groin strain. The Phillies will determine today if he needs to be placed on the injured list.

Gabe Kapler said Nicasio told the Phillies after Wednesday’s loss that he aggravated the injury over the weekend in Miami. Nicasio pitched 11 times in June, which was tied for the most on the team, and has made the third most appearances since this season by a Phillies pitcher.

“I’m not going to speculate or second-guess our pitchers,” Kapler said when asked if he would have preferred to know before Wednesday that Nicasio was hurt. “Our pitchers are tough. They fight really hard. They prepare themselves to pitch.”

Nicasio was unreliable in the season’s first two months, but then logged 10 scoreless appearances in June before he said he injured his groin in Miami. Say what you want about Nicasio, but he’s been one of the most used relievers and proved to be reliable for a stretch. Losing Nicasio will force Kapler to elevate another reliever into his role as the team continues to wait for David Robertson and Pat Neshek to return.

“I don’t know. All I can tell you is it’s bothering. It’s bothering me right now. I’ll have a better answer tomorrow,” Nicasio said. “It’s been a few days that it’s been bothering me but I didn’t think it was anything significant but today it got a little worse so we’re going to take it easy.”

The rundown

Bryce Harper needed just one swing on Tuesday night to record both his 1,000th career hit and 200th career homer. He is the first player ever to record a milestone hit and milestone home run on the same play. “I’ve got a lot of goals and dreams that I want to accomplish, and this is just part of it.”

A domestic assault complaint against Odubel Herrera was dropped Wednesday when his girlfriend declined to press charges, but Herrera could still face discipline from Major League Baseball, Scott Lauber writes. Lauber presents past examples of players who were suspended but were not convicted in court.

David Robertson made progress Wednesday in Atlanta by throwing a lively bullpen session before the game. Robertson, who has been out since April 14 with a strained forearm, remains on track to return by the end of the month.

Important dates

Tonight: Zach Eflin faces Braves all-star righthander Mike Sorokoa, 7:20 p.m.

Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez starts series opener against Mets’ 2019 all-star righthander Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m.

Saturday: Former all-star Jake Arrieta faces former all-star Noah Syndergaard, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: Aaron Nola sends Phillies into the break against righthander Zack Wheeler, 1:10 p.m.

Monday: Home Run Derby in Cleveland, 8 p.m.

The 1964 Phillies had a potent quartet of sluggers: (from left) Wes Covington, Frank Thomas, Richie Allen, and Johnny Callison.
Inquirer File Photo
The 1964 Phillies had a potent quartet of sluggers: (from left) Wes Covington, Frank Thomas, Richie Allen, and Johnny Callison.

Stat of the day

How tough will tonight’s pitching matchup be? Not only will the Phillies face an All-Star on Thursday night, but they’ll also be facing a possible Cy Young candidate. Mike Soroka’s 2.13 ERA is the second-best among National League starters and he’s finding success by not shying from contact. His groundball rate (57.1 percent) is the second-highest in the National League and his strikeout rate is just 7.12 per nine innings. The Canadian throws his sinker for nearly 50 percent of his pitches and has limited righthanded batters to a .188 batting average and .501 OPS. Good luck.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Will Jay Bruce be what Frank Thomas almost was to the 1964 Phils? He will be with them for a longer time, and will hopefully remain injury free, but it’s the same kind of infusion of timely hits. I was 13 in 1964. It made an impression. - Ben G. via email.

Answer: Thanks, Ben. You sent your email on the morning of the 54th anniversary of Thomas’ fight with Dick Allen, so I hope that doesn’t mean Jay Bruce is going to be scrapping with a teammate this week. Bruce has been excellent and your comparison to Thomas is a good one. Thomas joined the Phillies in August and had a .829 OPS in 39 games with the Phillies. Bruce has a .880 OPS in his first 24 games. The Phillies did not expect Bruce to play everyday, but injuries have forced that to be the case. They hope he can stay healthy. Side note: Frank Thomas and my grandfather were both in a seminary together outside Pittsburgh. Both left. One became a major-leaguer and one became a schoolteacher. We can’t all play baseball.