Thanks to Zach Eflin and Seranthony Dominguez, the two biggest pitching surprises of the season, and a spectacular game-saving play by third baseman Maikel Franco in the top of the eighth inning, the Phillies pulled out another one-run victory, beating the lowly Baltimore Orioles 3-2 on Tuesday night. The Phillies, for the fourth time this season, are at nine games over .500. The last time was May 26 when they spent their only day of the season in first place. With ace Aaron Nola on the mound Wednesday for a Fourth of July matinee, the Phillies will get a chance to go to 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
The only concerning news was that Eflin left the game after seven innings with a blister on his middle finger. Eflin shrugged off the seriousness of the blister.
"I mean it really wasn't affecting me until the later innings and even then it wasn't affecting me," he said. "I was ready to go back out there in the eighth."
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It is going to be interesting to see which Phillies players end up being in the all-star game later this month because more than one deserves to be there. At 10-2 with a 2.48 ERA, Aaron Nola should be a slam dunk to make the team. His 10 wins are tied for the second most in the National League and his ERA ranks fifth.
Zach Eflin should at least be entering the conversation, too. He improved to 7-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.97 by holding the Orioles to two runs in seven innings. He became the first Phillies pitcher to win six straight starts since Cliff Lee in 2011.
The Phillies' most deserving position player is clearly left fielder Rhys Hoskins. Look beyond his .253 batting average and you'll find that he is one of the most productive outfielders in the National League. With his two-run double in Tuesday's win, he moved into a tie for second among National League outfielders with 55 RBIs. He is third in walks, fifth in OPS and tied for third in extra-base hits.
Hoskins picked up the 100th RBI of his career in his 124th game Tuesday. No player in franchise history has reached that milestone faster since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920.
Matt Klentak made it clear Tuesday night that his team will be looking for help at the trade deadline for the first time during his tenure. "There's a few areas on our club that we can upgrade," Klentak said. Our Scott Lauber noted that Baltimore's Manny Machado would be the dream acquisition, but the Phillies are not going to part with their elite prospects unless the perennial all-star would be willing to sign a long-term deal ahead of his pending free agency.
Alumni weekend always is filled with some cool moments and we are now guaranteed one with Tuesday's announcement that Shane Victorino will officially retire as a Phillie before the team's Friday Aug. 3 game against the Miami Marlins. The Phillies, of course, will also honor the 2008 World Series title team that weekend. Hard to believe it has been 10 years Harry.
Vince Velasquez might be on the disabled list because of the line drive he took to his right arm Saturday against Washington, but his spectacular lefthanded throw to first base is still a topic of conversation. Our Tom Avril says some scientists would love to get a look inside Velasquez's brain.
Today: Aaron Nola gets Fourth of July start at 4:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Off day
Friday: Nick Pivetta opens series in Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Phillies play doubleheader vs. Mets at CitiField, 4:10 p.m.
July 12: Makeup game at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m.
On this date in 1976, the Phillies split a Fourth of July doubleheader in Pittsburgh to move to 52-22 and maintain a nine-game lead over the second-place Pirates in the N.L. East. The day is best remembered, however, for Tim McCarver's second-inning grand slam in the Phillies' opening-game victory that became a three-run single because the catcher passed Garry Maddox as he rounded first base. The Phillies also made a mid-season ballpark move on this date in 1938, moving from the Baker Bowl on North Broad Street to Shibe Park at 20th and Lehigh, which would remain their home ballpark through the 1970 season. They weren't particularly good at either ballpark, going 11-17 at the Baker Bowl and 15-31 at Shibe Park.
Question: I'd appreciate hearing your views on the classic issue of "try to win now" vs "try to build a powerful long term team." I'm concerned that Phillies management may yield to the "win now" pressure and trade away a solid piece (or more) of the team's future in order to make it to a weak position in this year's postseason. Comments? — Dave from Arkansas (née Philly), via email