Phillies close out first half at home vs. O’s

The Philadelphia Phillies have stayed near the top of the National League standings halfway through the season thanks in large part to their strong play at Citizens Bank Park.

They’ll close out their first-half home slate this week with two games against the Baltimore Orioles. Right-handers Zach Eflin and Alex Cobb will face off Tuesday night.

The Phillies enter the series at 45-37 and are 28-16 at home. The team had an off-day Monday after taking three of four against the Washington Nationals, and the Phillies won Sunday in 13 innings with a walk-off homer from catcher Andrew Knapp.

“A win like that, especially against Washington, is huge for our season right now,” Knapp told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It shows we’re here to stay. A lot of games left and we’ve got to keep playing well, but we’re up there with a lot of those teams.”

The Phillies have won 13 of their last 20 games and are firmly in second place in the National League East less than two weeks before the All-Star break. They’ll try to pad their win total against the Orioles (24-59), who have the worst record in baseball.

Eflin (6-2, 3.02 ERA) will be making his first start of July after a stellar month of June for the Phillies. The 24-year-old went 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.978 WHIP in five starts last month.

Eflin had one of the most impressive starts of his three-year major league career in his last outing. He threw seven scoreless innings against the New York Yankees, giving up only four hits while striking out six batters.

“Eflin was just outstanding,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters about Eflin after his last start. “…He certainly wasn’t rattled by anything. When he had base runners on, it’s almost like he got calmer. He did a really good job of controlling the running game and controlling his fastball. His working north-south better than he has before. And in June, he was dominant the whole month against some of baseball’s best teams.”

Eflin has never faced Baltimore in 32 career starts. Cobb (2-9, 6.75) will also be making his first appearance against the Phillies in his seven-year major league career.

The Orioles are 3-11 in Cobb’s 14 starts in 2018, including a loss to the Seattle Mariners last Wednesday. Cobb allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings in that start. It was the seventh time this season he’s surrendered at least five earned runs in a game.

“The inconsistency on my end, really never dealt with it before,” Cobb told mlb.com after the game. “But it’s really unacceptable to keep going out there and having a good game, and a game where you don’t give much of an opportunity for your team to win.”

The Phillies are 1-0 against the Orioles this season. They won a game in Baltimore on May 16 and will play another game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 12 to make up a rained-out contest.