Zach Eflin injured in Phillies loss

Phillies’ good vibes interrupted with a loss and a pitching injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

WASHINGTON – The intoxicating vibe that has been taken over the Phillies’ clubhouse this month was stifled Sunday when the team lost not only a game, but maybe a starting pitcher, as well.

Zach Eflin exited the 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals after two lackluster innings. It was the second straight shortened start for Eflin, who left Tuesday night’s outing against Miami after six innings and 80 pitches because of the tightness in his right knee. He had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in the knee in September.

There was no immediate word on why Eflin left Sunday’s start, but it was reasonable to believe that he experienced more issues with the surgically repaired knee. The pitcher had been examined by a team of doctors in the days leading up to the start and was cleared to pitch. In fact, on Thursday, manager Rob Thomson expressed relief that doctors saw nothing wrong with the patellar tendon in Eflin’s knee. Eflin was diagnosed with only a bruise, according to Thomson, and nothing that would keep him off the mound.

Three days later …

Eflin was tagged for five hits, including a long, three-run homer by Juan Soto, and four runs in his two innings of work. He also hit a batter. All four of the runs that Eflin allowed came in the second inning. The Phillies hung close in the middle innings thanks to three unearned runs, but the Nationals pulled away with four runs against Andrew Bellatti and Corey Knebel. The defense was not good behind Bellatti.

Knebel, who opened the season as the Phillies’ closer, walked in a run and gave up a two-run homer to old amigo Maikel Franco in 1⅓ innings.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Phillies and prevented them from sweeping the five-game series from the last-place Nationals. The Phils won the first four, two in extra innings.

The Phillies are still going pretty good at 15-3 in June, but Eflin’s condition has to be a concern. The starting rotation is one of the strengths of the team. It entered Sunday with a 3.65 ERA, ninth-best in the majors, while taking down 327⅓ innings, second-most in the majors.

The rotation that has built these impressive numbers is not deep. It’s basically five guys – Eflin, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez – and none has missed a start this season. After this group, there is Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sanchez in the minors and not a whole lot more. Losing Eflin for any amount of time will hurt.

The Phillies are idle on Monday before playing two games against the Rangers in Texas and four against a very good Padres team in San Diego. Eflin’s spot in the rotation will come up again on Saturday in San Diego. Falter, who started the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, could be pressed into duty if Eflin can’t go.

In addition to losing Eflin early Sunday, the Phillies were without Bryce Harper, who continues to receive treatment for a blister on his left hand. Thomson said Harper was progressing and could possibly be ready to go Tuesday night in Texas.

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