PHILS BOUNCED BY BUCS, STAY 7 1/2 GAMES BEHIND BRAVES!

By Sam Bush

Jon Musgrove sparked the Pirates with his bat and his legs and then overwhelmed the Phils over six innings of two-hit ball for a 5-1 victory.

Musgrove (7-8) tied a season high with eight strikeouts and hit a third-inning double against Zack Eflin. Musgrove followed it with a clinical head-first slide across home plate just ahead of a throw from childhood buddy and Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper after Bryan Reynolds’ single.

”I grew up playing with him,” Musgrove said of Harper. ”Our families are really close. We grew up playing a lot. We talk a lot. It was a fun little challenge. Ultimately I’m not thinking of anything other than trying to score there and how am I going to be safe?”

Musgrove eluded the tag from catcher J.T. Realmuto easily to ignite a three-run third inning that gave him and three relievers more than enough cushion on a night when the Phillies managed just three hits.

”I didn’t think we swung the bats the way we’re capable of swinging the bats,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. ”Musgrove did a pretty good job of keeping us off balance. He threw some good sliders. Early on, he was establishing his fastball. Then he started going to his slider and we weren’t able to make the adjustment.”

Starling Marte went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI for the Pirates. Corey Dickerson added two doubles and an RBI as Pittsburgh won for just second time in eight games.

”We need every win we can get right now,” Musgrove said. ”I’m going to take the ball as often as I can, any chance I get.”

Though they wore the trademark black uniforms with striped pillbox caps the 1979 group led by Hall of Fame first baseman Willie Stargell and All-Star outfielder Dave Parker made famous on their way to the franchise’s last World Series title, the likeness between this current group and the ”We Are Family” crew ends there.

This group of Pirates is dealing with injuries to the pitching staff and is simply trying to hang around following a post All-Star break funk that has dropped them off the pace in the NL Central.

”We need consistency on both sides,” Dickerson said. ”We’ve played well at times. We’ve got to put it together somewhat consistently.”

Eflin, who entered with one victory in his last six starts and a 13.00 ERA in July, ran into trouble in the third and dropped to 2-7 on the road. Reynolds came home on Marte’s first double and Marte raced across the plate on a soft single by Josh Bell to give the Pirates an early 3-0 lead. Eflin lasted just four innings, giving up three runs on five hits with three strikeouts as his ERA ticked up to a season-high 4.25.

Kapler said Eflin appears to be feeling ”a little bit heavy” at the moment. Eflin acknowledged there may be some fatigue setting in.

”Sometimes you wake up, you don’t feel great,” he said. ”Right now it’s one of those things where I’m searching to find what’s best for me and what’s going to work for me. So come back in a couple days, throw a good bullpen and go from there.”

The Phillies scratched across a run in the fifth when a walk and an error by Bell at first base put runners in scoring position with no outs. Brad Miller scored on a groundout by Adam Haseley, but Musgrove returned from a 28-minute rain delay to strike out pinch-hitter Nick Williams and Scott Kingery to end the threat.

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