PHILADELPHIA — A lineup without a resting Aaron Judge, and Neil Walker, Kyle Higashioka and Luis Cessa filling out slots 7-9 in the order didn’t look especially promising.
Indeed, sometimes you can predict baseball.
The evening progressed about as expected, with the Yankees falling rather meekly to Zach Eflin and the Phillies, 3-0, Wednesday night in front of 42,028 at Citizens Bank Park.
“We were pretty quiet,” Aaron Boone said. “Usually, even when we’re not scoring runs, we’re mounting things. We really didn’t mount that much against him. He was in command.”
The Bombers managed all of four hits, none after the sixth inning, and put just one runner in scoring position.
Eflin, a righthander, allowed four hits over seven innings, two of them to Aaron Hicks. After the second of those, which started the sixth, Phillies pitching retired the last 11 Yankees of the night.
Eflin walked two and struck out six in improving to 6-2 with a 3.02 ERA.
Rough night, and trip, aside, the Yankees (52-26), who went 2-4 on a trip that started with a three-game sweep by the Rays, enter this weekend’s monster AL East showdown with the Red Sox in a virtual tie atop the division. Boston was 53-27 entering Wednesday night’s game against the Angels.
Luis Cessa, on a pitch count around 80, got the start for the Bombers and lasted three innings and was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game.
The 26-year-old righthander, who started the season on the DL with an oblique strain and was activated June 21, allowed three runs and five hits. All of the runs came on Rhys Hoskins’ three-run homer to right-center in the second. Cessa (0-1), who walked two and struck out two, threw 74 pitches, 44 strikes.
“Too many full counts, too many counts [where] it was 2-and-2,” Cessa said.
The Phillies (42-36), who dropped the first two games of the series, didn’t score against Cessa in the first, leaving the bases loaded, but made him throw 27 pitches.
Cessa wasn’t as fortunate in the second. Jorge Alfaro singled with one out and went to second on Eflin’s sacrifice bunt. Cessa walked Cesar Hernandez and got ahead of Hoskins 1-and-2 before hanging a slider the rightfielder took opposite-field for his 12th homer of the season. Odubel Herrera grounded to second for the third out, leaving Cessa at 55 pitches through two.
Carlos Santana led off the third with a drive to left that looked like an extra-base hit. But Brett Gardner crashed up against the wall, leading with his right shoulder and head, to make a leaping catch. The veteran was shaken up but stayed in and was evaluated when he returned to the dugout at inning’s end.
“Any time you run into something like that, it kind of stuns you for a second,” Gardner said. “Once I got up, I realized where I was, recognized Hicks [the centerfielder] right there, so I felt like I was pretty good.”
Aaron Altherr followed with a long drive toward the corner in right where Giancarlo Stanton made a fine running catch for the second out of the inning.
Righthander Giovanny Gallegos was outstanding in relief of Cessa, striking out six over three scoreless innings.
The Yankees had one inning, the second, in which they put two runners on. But Cessa ended the threat by striking out.
Seranthony Dominguez, who pitched a perfect eighth, retired the Bombers in order in the ninth for his fifth save.
“Going into the off day [Thursday] would have been nice to finish this off and turn it into a pretty good trip,” Boone said. “But we move on. I think the off day comes at a really nice time for us, to get some guys some rest and recovery, then start a really big series at home.”