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Phillies lineup goes flat without Rhys Hoskins and other observations from a 3-1 loss to the Rays

The Phillies were sluggish Tuesday without Hoskins, a game after he homered twice to spark their largest run total in nearly three weeks.

Bryce Harper of the Phillies yells after grounding out to second in the fourth inning against the Rays.
Bryce Harper of the Phillies yells after grounding out to second in the fourth inning against the Rays.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that the Phillies plan to play Rhys Hoskins “day on, day off for a little bit” while he nurses a sore groin. So as long as that’s the plan, the entire offense might also be “day on, day off for a little bit.”

The Phillies were sluggish Tuesday without Hoskins, a game after he homered twice to spark their largest run total in nearly three weeks. They had just six hits, left six runners on base, and came up empty in their five chances with runners in scoring position.

Hoskins, as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth, ended the game with a pop-up.

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The offense spiraled while Hoskins was on the injured list but seemed to return on Sunday in San Diego. Tuesday night was a “day off” for Hoskins so he can start Wednesday against a left-handed pitcher. And Tuesday seemed like a “day off” for the lineup.

“Other guys have to pick it up,” Girardi said. “It can’t be one guy. It can’t be two guys. Collectively, it’s a group that gets going and it comes from different spots sometimes. That’s when your lineup is rolling.”

The first three hitters — Odubel Herrera, Jean Segura, and Bryce Harper — combined to go 1-for-12 and recorded half of the team’s eight strikeouts. Brad Miller, who replaced Hoskins at first base, doubled in the team’s lone run. That was about the only threat the Phillies could muster.

And it was a missed opportunity as first-place Atlanta lost for the second straight game to the Yankees. The Phillies, who are just a game over .500, remain 4½ games behind Atlanta with 37 games remaining.

“We just have to get better and do it right now,” Harper said. “We’re wasting time. We have to get going.”

They’ve received better production from both their rotation and bullpen, but it’s hard to imagine them chasing down Atlanta without scoring runs. Since their eight-game winning streak ended on Aug. 10, the Phillies have hit just .187 and averaged 2.78 runs per game while losing nine of 13.

They have scored two runs or fewer in eight of their last 12 games and have scored more than four runs just once in their last seven games. That one game was the one Hoskins played.

“He’s definitely important to our lineup and when he’s in our lineup, we have the extra thump that we need,” Harper said. “He provides that and gives us another right-handed bat in our lineup who hits for power and gets on base. The whole thing that Rhys does out there, when he’s available, it’s always really good for us. When he’s not, that kind of puts us a little bit down.”

Eflin to start Thursday

Zach Eflin will return to the starting rotation for Thursday’s series opener against Arizona. Eflin threw just 31 pitches Saturday in a rehab appearance with double-A Reading, so he is expected to be on a pitch count in his first big-league start since being placed on the injured list July 20 with patellar tendinitis in his right knee.

“Obviously, he’s not stretched out to a point where he could go significant volume, but it’s really helpful when he’s toeing the rubber and sometimes you sacrifice volume and length for quality,” general manager Sam Fuld said Sunday. “When he’s healthy, he’s quality.”

Suarez’s night

Ranger Suarez pitched into the seventh inning, continuing to impress in his transition to the starting rotation. The left-hander struck out seven, scattered six hits, and walked just one in 6⅔ innings. He threw 99 pitches, which was his most since the Phillies made him a starter again and a sign that the Phillies are ready to treat him like a normal starting pitcher.

“I don’t think you can ask him to do much more than what he did tonight,” Girardi said. “He was excellent.”

It was a big test for Suarez, who did not look strong in his last outing against the woeful Diamondbacks. He held his own against the Rays, who are in first place in the American League East and have scored the second-highest run total in baseball.

“I had really, really good command of my pitches tonight and I knew what kind of lineup I was facing tonight, so it was really important to me that I kept command of my pitches,” Suarez said.

Trouble for Bradley

Archie Bradley struggled in the eighth inning as he gave up two runs after entering with the score tied at 1. The right-hander had been on a strong run, allowing just seven earned runs in his last 32⅔ innings dating back to June.

Brett Phillips singled his first pitch to left before Bradley hit Randy Arozarena. With trouble brewing, Nelson Cruz lined a two-run single to left. For Bradley, it was a rough night. But when the offense can only score one run, rough nights are hard to overcome.