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Phillies hoping Zack Wheeler can end their three-game losing streak Friday against Braves | Extra Innings

A bad first-inning play by Odubel Herrera and a fat third-inning pitch by Matt Moore led to five Atlanta runs during the Phillies' 7-2 loss to the Braves Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler throws the baseball against the Miami Marlins on Sunday, July 18, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler throws the baseball against the Miami Marlins on Sunday, July 18, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

It started with a bad defensive play by leftfielder Odúbel Herrera that was followed by a low throw home from second baseman Jean Segura to catcher Andrew Knapp, leading to the Atlanta Braves’ first run in their 7-2 victory over the Phillies Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. Four more scored with two outs in the third when Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson hit a center-cut fastball from Matt Moore into the left-field seats for the first grand slam of his career.

The Phillies’ offense, meanwhile, managed just two runs on four hits in six innings against Atlanta’s Charlie Morton and went 2-for-11 in the game with runners in scoring position.

That’s a terrible way to convince your front office to be buyers at the July 30 trade deadline.

All the momentum the Phillies had at the start of the week is gone. In its place is a three-game losing streak that has left them tied for second place with the Braves and four games behind the first-place New York Mets in the National League East. Phillies manager Joe Girardi is hoping his team can turn things around Friday night when he sends staff ace Zack Wheeler to the mound.

“Well, momentum always starts with the starting pitcher going the next day and we have got Wheeler going,” Girardi said. “I know they have a good pitcher going as well, but we need a big start out of Wheeler.”

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The rundown

Columnist Marcus Hayes thinks the Phillies should forget about winning the National League East and become sellers ahead of the trade deadline. It’s an opinion that no doubt gained support after the Phillies lost their third straight Thursday night. Andrew McCutchen, Héctor Neris, and Brad Miller are among the players he’d ship elsewhere.

The Phillies’ top three starters — Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Zach Eflin — all consistently took their turns in the rotation during the first half of the season, but Eflin is now on the injured list with knee tendinitis. Matt Breen writes that should be team president Dave Dombrowski’s cue to get starting pitching help before the July 30 trade deadline.

The good news for the Phillies is that Dombrowski has had a ton of success as both a seller and a buyer at the trade deadline. Three years ago with Boston, he got World Series MVP Steve Pearce ahead of the trade deadline.

Here’s an extensive list of Dombrowski’s trade-deadline history. It includes the acquisition of the late Darren Daulton from the Phillies in 1997, a move that helped Dombrowski and the Florida Marlins win their first World Series.

It did not result in a win, but Scott Lauber writes that the Phillies were pleased with Spencer Howard’s slider and command during his three-inning outing against the New York Yankees Wednesday night.

It’s always a nerve-racking experience for a professional athlete or celebrity when they agree to throw out a first pitch before a baseball game, and Sixers beat writer Keith Pompey reports that defensive stalwart Tyrese Maxey will give it a try before the Phillies-Braves game Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phllies’ loss to the Braves doesn’t look any better through the camera lens, but Yong Kim’s photography from Tuesday night’s game was once again terrific.

Important dates

Tonight: Zack Wheeler goes against Atlanta lefty Max Fried, 7:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez faces Drew Smyly, 6:05 p.m.

Sunday: Aaron Nola pitches series finale with the Braves against Touki Toussaint, 1:05 p.m.

Monday: Phillies open a four-game series against Washington, 7:05 p.m.

July 30: Phillies begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh’s scenicPNC Park, 7:05 p.m.

Stat of the day

On this date in 1918, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and George Sisler, three of baseball’s biggest stars, were offered jobs by the Baltimore Drydock and Shipping Company amid fears that the baseball season would not be completed because too many players would be drafted into the military following a World War I “work or fight” order by Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. The order made all players eligible for the draft because baseball was not considered an essential job. Working for a shipping company was essential. Baseball’s solution was to shorten the season. The World Series was completed on Sept. 11 with the Boston Red Sox defeating the Chicago Cubs in six games. Babe Ruth, who was not drafted into the military, won Games 1 and 4 for the Red Sox. The war ended two months after the World Series, allowing for the 1919 season that ended with the Black Sox scandal to begin on time.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.

Question: Love the column. Keep up the good work! As a physician and an avid Phillies fan, I find it heartbreaking that so many players refuse to be vaccinated. If I were Dave Dombrowski or John Middleton, I would be reluctant to give up future players or pay big money at the trade deadline this year, knowing that it is likely that unvaccinated players may become unable to play during the playoffs should the Phillies qualify. Your thoughts?

Donna F. via email.

Answer: Thanks for your question and kind words Donna. You are assuredly not alone in your feelings about the players’ unwillingness to become vaccinated. Even if their vaccination reluctance does not have a direct impact on the thinking of Dombrowski and Middleton, it may have an indirect influence because a depleted pitching staff has been part of the problem during the Phillies’ three-game losing streak. And the more the Phillies lose, it becomes less likely that Dombrowski will want to pay a prohibitive price to improve this year’s ballclub. It’s possible even that he could change course and move a veteran player if the team falls to six or seven games behind the New York Mets in the next five days.