Kepler homers in Twins’ 2-1 series finale loss to Phillies
PHILADELPHIA — For once, the Philadelphia Phillies relied on strong pitching to win a game.
Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run homer , Zach Eflin threw seven sharp innings and the Phillies beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 Sunday.
“This was an important game for the direction of our team,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We proved we didn’t need to see a lot of pitches and score a lot of runs with our potent offense.”
Eflin (2-0) allowed a leadoff homer to Max Kepler and five singles, striking out five.
“It was nice to squeak out seven,” Eflin said. “The action on my sinker and change-up were working. I didn’t have my best slider.”
Jose Berrios (1-1) gave up only an infield hit before Hoskins connected. He had seven strikeouts in six innings.
Bryce Harper was 0 for 2 with two walks and stole a base. Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen made a perfect one-hop throw to the plate to prevent Marwin Gonzalez from scoring on Ehire Adrianza’s single in the third.
David Robertson got two outs in the eighth and Adam Morgan finished the inning. Hector Neris tossed a perfect ninth for his first save since last Sept. 18 against the Mets.
“Hector was spectacular,” Kapler said.
Neris was Philadelphia’s closer until he got demoted to the minors after struggling last season. He pitched well after returning to the majors and is part of a closer-by-committee bullpen.
“I just come in and try to do my job whether it’s the ninth, eighth, sixth inning,” Neris said.
Kepler gave the Twins a 1-0 lead when he drove a fastball into the seats in right-center for his first career leadoff homer. He went deep in each game of the series.
Hoskins fouled off three straight 3-2 pitches in the sixth before launching his third homer into the flower bed just over the left-center field wall.
“I missed a few pitches previously,” he said. “I was able to get barrel to the ball and got enough of it to get it out.”
Berrios’ pitch was in a good spot, down and away.
“Jose made a nice pitch,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s a good hitter and he put it over the fence. Jose threw the ball really well.”
After averaging 8.2 runs in their first six games, the Phillies have only scored four in the last two.
The Phillies took two of three to improve to 6-2. They are 2-0-1 in the first three series, their best start since 2011.
McCutchen received a loud ovation after throwing a runner out. He got another one when he took advantage of Minnesota’s shift and went first to third on Harper’s groundout in the sixth.
After hitting just one home run in the first five games, the Twins had six in the series.
Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz made his first appearance in the series as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth. Cruz, who only played four games in right field for Seattle last year, struck out swinging at an 88 mph splitter.
Twins: RHP Matt Magill (right shoulder tendinitis) and LHP Gabriel Moya (left shoulder tendinitis) are throwing bullpen sessions in extended spring in Florida.
Phillies: OF Roman Quinn (right oblique strain) was 3 for 3 with a homer in his second rehab game at Single-A Clearwater on Saturday.
Twins: After a day off Monday, RHP Kyle Gibson (0-0, 9.64 ERA) starts Tuesday night at New York in another interleague series. RHP Jacob deGrom (2-0, 0.00) takes the mound for the Mets.
Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez makes his first start this season in the opener of a three-game series against the Nationals on Monday night. RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 9.00 ERA) goes for Washington.