Zach Eflin's strong start nullified as Phillies give up late lead in loss to Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO – Coming into AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, was not an easy assignment for the sputtering Phillies on Friday night.
 
The Giants were on fire. They had won 11 of their previous 12 games to go 20 games over .500 and open a six-game lead in the National League West. They were 22-13 at home and were playing in front of their 444th straight sellout crowd.
 
On top of it all, the Phillies would be sending a rookie to the mound for his third big-league start.
 
But Zach Eflin ended up delivering a strong start for the Phillies – he left after six innings with a one-run lead – one that secured his place in the rotation for now.
 
In the end, the Phillies suffered a 5-4 loss to the high-flying Giants because the bullpen couldn’t protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning and the bats couldn’t do enough to capitalize on eight base runners in the final two innings (see Instant Replay).
 
“That’s what the game boiled down to,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The loss was the Phils’ 27th in the last 34 games, dropping them to 31-44.
 
If there was a positive for the Phils it was that they continued to swing the bats well after breaking out for 38 hits and 22 runs the previous three games in Minnesota. The Phils had 10 hits, one more than the Giants, and six of them were for extra bases. They could have used one of those extra-base hits against the Giants’ bullpen in the eighth or ninth inning, but it never came.
 
At least it never came with runners on base.
 
Maikel Franco tripled to open the eighth and the Phils loaded the bases with one out. They scored twice in the inning on a base hit and a walk, but didn’t get the big hit they needed. Ditto for the ninth inning. San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla loaded the bases with two outs on a walk, a single and a hit batsman.
 
The Phils’ last gasp came down to rookie Tyler Goeddel. He tapped a ball up toward third base that had the look of a game-tying infield hit. The play at first base was bang-bang. It was reviewed. Goeddel was out by inches. Ballgame.
 
“I thought I beat it,” Goeddel said. “Watching the replay, I guess I didn’t.”
 
The Phillies stranded 11 men in all.
 
Leaving men on base wasn’t the Phils’ only problem. Freddy Galvis got picked off first base with a man on second and two outs in the second.
 
The defense was shoddy. Ryan Howard started at first base and made two errors, one of which led to an unearned run in the first inning. That run eventually proved pivotal.
 
In the pivotal seventh inning, centerfielder Odubel Herrera failed to make a diving catch on a sinking liner by pinch-hitter Buster Posey. The ball hit Herrera’s glove.
 
“I thought he could have caught it,” Mackanin said. “It was huge.”
 
Posey’s hit put runners on first and second with no outs. The Giants rallied for four runs in the frame to come back from a 2-1 deficit and take a 5-2 lead.
 
Interestingly, Mackanin bypassed struggling veteran David Hernandez with a one-run lead in the seventh and went with Severino Gonzalez, who started the season in Double A.
 
“I had Hernandez [available] but he hasn’t been pitching well lately,” Mackanin said. “Severino is pitching better.”
 
Gonzalez gave up a leadoff hit. Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent up lefty-hitting Jarrett Parker. Mackanin countered with lefty reliever Elvis Araujo. Bochy yanked Parker for Posey, the All-Star catcher who was getting a night off. Posey delivered. Araujo then retired just one of the next three lefty hitters, a stretch that culminated with lefty-hitting Brandon Belt smacking a three-run double to put the Giants ahead. They scored another run before the inning was over. It proved important as the Phillies closed the gap late.
 
“Bochy took a gamble using two players at once, including his only other catcher,” Mackanin said. “I didn't think he would use Posey that early. But that wasn’t the game. The game boiled down to us not capitalizing on our base runners the last two innings.”

If the environment seemed difficult for the Phillies on Friday night, it will be even more so on Saturday when they have to face Madison Bumgarner and his minuscule 1.85 ERA. 

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