At about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Joe Girardi met with reporters in the Phillies’ dugout and dropped a double-whammy. Rhys Hoskins may be out for the season (Hoskins later confirmed he is), and Zach Eflin had to be scratched from what was supposed to be his first start.
“It’s been quite a day,” Girardi said.
And it didn’t get better for him once the sun went down.
With a chance to make hay on the division-leading Atlanta Braves, the Phillies got hit by another haymaker from the Diamondbacks, 8-7, at Citizens Bank Park. At 63-64, the Phillies are below .500 for the first time since Aug. 1, and 5½ games out of first place, their largest deficit since June 26.
“Big blows,” infielder Brad Miller said of losing Hoskins and Eflin. “They’re two of our guys that are a big part of this and huge contributors. To lose them is a blow. But nobody cares. The season’s not going to stop. We’ve got to find a way.”
The way forward, if there is one, is a soft September schedule. But then the Phillies have faced the worst team in the National League four times in the last 10 days and lost all four games.
Never mind that the Diamondbacks are on pace for 107 losses. The Phillies turn them into the 1927 Yankees. They have outscored the Phillies by a 21-13 margin and held them to a total of 21 hits.
The Diamondbacks picked up where they left off from last week’s three-game sweep of the Phillies in Arizona. They grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning that grew to 4-0 in the fourth against Matt Moore, who found out at 4 p.m. that he had to fill in for Eflin.
Trailing 8-2 in the ninth inning, the Phillies made it interesting by capitalizing on two errors, a passed ball, and two-out RBI hits by Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorius en route to scoring five runs. But Miller — Hoskins’ replacement at first base — struck out with the tying run on first base.
“It’s just really frustrating,” Girardi said. “We’ve found different ways to lose games. It’s frustrating what we went through after we played so well there and put ourselves in a pretty good position. We’ve kind of dug ourselves a hole.”
This time, the offense got muted early by Diamondbacks right-hander Zac Gallen, a product of Bishop Eustace Prep. Moore, meanwhile, allowed four consecutive singles to open the Diamondbacks’ two-run second inning. He allowed a leadoff double to .127-hitting Drew Ellis and a two-run homer to Nick Ahmed in the fourth.
After losing three straight last week in Arizona, Zack Wheeler said the Phillies “need to take that personal.” J.T. Realmuto suggested games against rebuilding Arizona “seem a little more winnable.”
The Phillies have three more chances to actually win one.
When Hoskins recently missed 14 games in a row with a strained left groin, Miller made 11 starts at first base — and went 7-for-38 with 15 strikeouts.
Now that Hoskins is out for the season, is Miller the first baseman?
Neither Girardi nor general manager Sam Fuld was ready to make that pronouncement. And Miller went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts to drop his season average to .213 and OPS to .710. Miller is 8-for-57 (.140) with 20 strikeouts this month.
“Quite frankly, I’ve underperformed,” Miller said. “Rhys being out is a huge loss for us if I keep playing like this.”
The Phillies have few options, unless they decide to recall recently demoted third baseman Alec Bohm and move him to first. Girardi told infielder Freddy Galvis to take grounders at first base. But while Galvis has played shortstop, third base, second base, and even left field in his major-league career, he hasn’t played first.
Jean Segura halved a four-run deficit in the fifth inning by lining a two-run home run into the right-field bleachers, his loudest hit in at least two weeks.
Before going deep, Segura was in a deep funk — 4-for-48, to be precise — that sent his batting average and OPS spiraling from .316 and .841, respectively, on Aug. 11 to .287 and .778.
Segura isn’t alone among the Phillies’ top right-handed hitters. Since Hoskins went on the injured list (the first time), Realmuto is 10-for-55 (.182) with 16 strikeouts and Andrew McCutchen is 6-for-45 (.133) with 17 whiffs.
Gallen was making his 44th career start and first at Citizens Bank Park. He held the Phillies to three hits and two unearned runs in five innings. In two career starts against them, he hasn’t given up an earned run in 10 innings.
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Gallen with the final pick in the third round in 2016 and traded him a year later to Miami, which dealt him to Arizona in 2019 for infielder Jazz Chisholm. The Phillies’ third-round pick in 2016: Cole Stobbe, an infielder who has a .203 average and .654 OPS in 1,033 minor-league at-bats, none above high-A.