Harper, Phillies try to snap skid at Atlanta

MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies have lost five straight, but you can’t blame outfielder Bryce Harper.

Harper, who has reached base in each of the 22 games in which he’s played, is having a great offensive season. The Phillies just haven’t been able to take advantage of it.

The Phillies will try to salvage the finale of the three-game series in Atlanta on Sunday. The Braves have won the first two, 11-2 on Friday and 6-5 on Saturday. Atlanta leads the season series 4-2.

The pitching matchup for the rubber game features a pair of right-handers: Philadelphia’s Zach Eflin (0-1, 5.14 ERA) vs. Atlanta’s Josh Tomlin (1-0, 2.35).

Harper, who did not play in the series opener on Friday, homered on the first pitch he saw from Atlanta’s Robbie Erlin on Saturday. The tape-measure shot went 470 feet and was the second-longest home run by any player this season. It was the second-longest homer of Harper’s career, only three feet shorter than the one he belted as a member of the Washington Nationals in 2018.

Harper went 1-for-2 with one run scored, three RBIs and two walks on Saturday. He is batting .343 with seven homers, 19 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 17 walks and four stolen bases. He has three home runs in five games on the current road trip.

“We’ve got a good team, and we’ve got a good lineup,” Harper said. “When we’re hitting on all cylinders, we’re a pretty tough team to get out.”

But the Philadelphia bullpen continue to struggle, with an ERA (8.29) that is easily the worst in the majors. The Phillies have blown leads in their last eight losses, and seven of those have come with a two-run lead. Hector Neris gave up three runs in a third of an inning to cut into a four-run lead on Saturday, and Brandon Workman, who had been acquired 24 hours earlier from Boston, gave up the tying run and winning run in his debut with the team.

Eflin will try to turn it around. He will be making his fourth start of the year and his first this season against the Braves. In his most recent start at Boston on Aug. 18, Eflin allowed four runs on five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in four innings and received no decision.

Eflin has made seven career starts against the Braves, going 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA. He was 1-3 with a 6.61 ERA in four starts against Atlanta in 2019.

Tomlin has become a versatile member of the Braves’ pitching staff. He began the season as a reliever and made eight successful appearances — allowing only two runs in 11 1/3 innings out of the bullpen — before being asked to start on Aug. 18 against Washington. He responded by pitching four innings and allowing two runs and guaranteed himself another starting assignment.

“He could really bridge to the back-end guys really well,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s why I hated to lose him out of the bullpen. I think this will serve us well having him start, but I hate doing that just because he’s so valuable in the bullpen.”

Tomlin will make his first career start against the Phillies. In nine appearances against Philadelphia, he’s 0-0 with a 4.00 ERA, with eight strikeouts and two walks in nine innings.

–Field Level Media

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