SAN DIEGO — Never mind that Jacob Nix was making his major-league debut here Friday night or that he had started exactly one game above the double-A level. The Phillies, manager Gabe Kapler said, had more than enough video on the San Diego Padres righthander and didn’t need to hire Sherlock Holmes to track it down.
“There’s some film on him,” Kapler said before the game. “If you just wanted to dig into YouTube, there’s some good stuff on there.”
If preparation wasn’t a challenge, it can’t be an excuse either. But the way the Phillies’ offense has been going lately, getting shut out by Nix for six innings of a 2-0 loss in the series opener against the lowly Padres was merely par for the course.
The Phillies haven’t scored a run in 19 innings dating back to the eighth inning Tuesday night in Arizona. They were shut out for the ninth time this season and blanked in back-to-back games for the second time. It also happened June 1-2 in San Francisco.
But this is a particularly bad time for the bats to go cold. While the Phillies flounder on the West Coast, the Atlanta Braves have won nine of their last 12 games and moved into a tie for the division lead. It’s the first time the Phillies haven’t held sole possession of first place in the NL East since July 23.
Once again, the Phillies got a strong performance from their starting pitcher. Zach Eflin, once a Padres farmhand, held his former team to two runs on five hits and struck out eight batters in six innings. But the Phillies barely even hit any balls hard against Nix and three relief pitchers.
It all might have been different if the Phillies capitalized on a two-out rally in the first inning. Nick Williams singled, Carlos Santana drew his 88th walk of the season and Asdrubal Cabrera reached on an infield single, putting Nix on the ropes. But Odubel Herrera grounded out, wasting the best scoring opportunity the Phillies would get until the ninth inning.
Herrera and Maikel Franco opened the ninth inning with back-to-back singles against Padres closer Kirby Yates. But Jorge Alfaro and pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp struck out before Cesar Hernandez hit a tapper in front of home plate that Yates scooped up and chucked to first base for the final out.
Nix retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced after Hernandez’s two-out walk in the second inning. With a fastball that scraped 96 mph and a bending curveball, Nix flummoxed the Phillies until lefty reliever Matt Strahm took over to begin the seventh inning.
According to Kapler, though, the Phillies had a good sense of what was coming from Nix, a 22-year-old former third-round pick who was promoted by the Padres only a week after making his triple-A debut.
The Padres grabbed the lead in the second inning. Austin Hedges reached on an infield single, stole second base and scored on an RBI single from former Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, who is 8-for-14 in four games against his old team this season.
Hedges extended the lead to 2-0 by hitting an elevated fastball for a solo homer in the fourth inning.
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