MIAMI -- At least they weren’t on their phones.
Credit the Phillies for that much. Zach Eflin allowed three home runs in one inning, Odubel Herrera didn’t run out a ground ball that he thought was foul, and the Phillies mustered only two hits through eight innings on Saturday night, in a lethargic 10-3 trouncing by the Marlins, the worst team in the National League East.
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But hey, nobody was caught peeking at a cell phone on the bench, a la Sixers backup Amir Johnson. Surely, it must have been tempting.
“They just beat us from every element of the game, from defense, pitching, swung the bats better than we did,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We have to play better than this.”
As much as the Phillies talked before this series -- and again after Friday night’s 9-1 giggler -- about respecting the rebuilding Marlins and not taking them lightly, they were mostly no-shows after a first inning in which they forced lefty Caleb Smith to throw 29 pitches, 21 with two outs.
The Marlins scored two runs in the second inning and four in the third against Eflin. After allowing only nine hits in 12 innings in his first two starts of the season, he gave up 10 in four innings against the league’s lowest-scoring team. The Marlins finished with 18 hits, one more than their total from the previous four games, all losses.
Everything that Eflin threw got hit. In the second inning, he gave up a double on a sinker to Miguel Rojas, an RBI single on a slider to Austin Dean, and an RBI double on a sinker to Lewis Brinson. In the third inning, the Marlins’ homers came on a first-pitch curveball to Brian Anderson, a change-up to Neil Walker, and a 93-mph first-pitch fastball that Dean crushed toward the South Beach-style club in left-center field.
“I think a couple pitches were [missed] location, but for the most part, I honestly thought I had really good stuff tonight,” Eflin said. “I felt really good in the first and second inning, and after that it seemed like they started jumping on my stuff.”
Eflin leaned heavily on his fastball and slider, which isn’t atypical. But he threw fewer change-ups and curveballs than usual. His only curveball was the one that Anderson hit over the center-field wall.
Kapler said he didn’t mind Eflin throwing his breaking pitch in that situation, as long as he executed it below the strike zone.
“It looked like it was kind of middle-in, down a little bit. [Anderson] just jumped all over it,” Eflin said. “I thought I could flip it in there and get a strike, but it looked like he was sitting on it.”
Kapler said: “They were just on him from the start. I think he found the middle of the plate a couple of times too many.”
Smith got in trouble in the first inning after issuing back-to-back, two-out walks to Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. But, he won an 11-pitch duel with J.T. Realmuto, who fouled off seven pitches, then retired 15 of the next 17 batters. Andrew McCutchen’s one-out double in the third inning was the only hit Smith gave up.
The Phillies did all their scoring in the ninth inning, on an RBI single by Herrera and a two-run double by Nick Williams, who entered the game one inning earlier. Scott Kingery, who also pinch-hit in the eighth inning, finished with a pair of doubles and will earn a rare start Sunday, Kapler said, although it had not been decided which position he will play.
But, Eflin’s dud amplified the question that will continue to hover over Phillies: Do they have enough starting pitching?
Through 13 games, Phillies starters have a 5.04 ERA, worse than the league average. Jake Arrieta is the only starter who has not struggled in three turns through the rotation.