Saturday, July 23, 2016

Eflin Shutout Opens Cross Commonwealth Series

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Pirates 4-0

The Pirates got a solid performance out of their ace on Friday night at PNC Park, but Phillies rookie Zach Eflin answered with a gem of his own, throwing his first career shutout in a 4-0 win over Gerrit Cole at PNC Park. Eflin efficiently mowed down the Pirates' lineup, needing only 100 pitches to get through his second complete game in his last four starts, a three-hit masterpiece in which he outdueled Cole. He benefitted from some impressive outfield defense by center fielder Odubel Herrera and right fielder Peter Bourjos, but he also induced eight groundouts and struck out six batters without a walk. He faced 29 batters, two more than the minimum, and retired 20 of the Pirates' last 21 hitters. "[Eflin] was, for lack of a better word, filthy tonight," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He got ahead of people, great movement on his fastball, good slider, occasional changeup, occasional curveball, but he pounded the strike zone and just went right after the hitters." Making his second start since coming off the disabled list due to a strained right triceps, Cole looked more like himself. The right-hander held the Phillies to one run and struck out seven over six innings. The Pirates' bullpen couldn't hold the Phillies' lead at one, as Arquimedes Caminero surrendered another run in the seventh inning and Cameron Rupp ripped a two-run shot off Jonathon Niese in the ninth. "The guy threw the ball really well," Cole said. "He did a nice job keeping us off balance and inducing early contact. His pitch count was in fantastic shape all night." The win snapped Philadelphia's six-game losing skid at PNC Park. The Pirates couldn't make up any ground in either the National League Central race, in which they are 9 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cubs, or the NL Wild Card standings, in which they are behind the Mets and Cardinals and three games out of the second spot.

  • In the sixth inning, Rupp singled on a line drive to right fielder Gregory Polanco, scoring Herrera and giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Andres Blanco later drove in Herrera with a single to right field, pulling ahead 2-0.
  • After striking out the Phillies' first two batters, Cole plunked Maikel Franco in the left wrist with a fastball. In the bottom of the first, Eflin responded by sending a fastball into Andrew McCutchen's backside. Home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo immediately issued warnings in the direction of Eflin and both dugouts. Franco left the game -- for "precautionary reasons," the Phillies announced -- during the fourth inning. He was replaced by third baseman Blanco. After the game, Mackanin said X-rays had come back negative.
  • Rupp sent a two-run shot to right center in the ninth inning, making it 4-0 and adding cushion to the Phillies' lead. Rupp went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
  • "He's one of my favorite pitchers right now." -- Mackanin, on Eflin finding a rhythm.
  • Eflin is the fourth-fastest Phillies pitcher since 1914 to toss a 9-inning shutout on 100 pitches or fewer. Don Newcombe did so in 1949 in his second career start, as did Stan Williams in 1958. Jerome Williams did it in his sixth start.
Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-8, 4.41 ERA) will start for the Phillies at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at PNC Park, aiming for his first win since June 5. Nola registered three losses and a 10.42 ERA in June.


In The Record Books – Phillies rookie right-hander Zach Eflin's first Major League shutout took a few decisions off Pete Mackanin's hands. Mackanin sat in the visiting manager's office chair, looking relaxed after Eflin's 100-pitch three-hitter helped the Phillies to a 4-0 win on Friday at PNC Park. "A good manager knows how to use the bullpen," Mackanin said. In his sixth straight quality start, Eflin suffocated a Pirates offense that's hitting .260. It's his second complete game in eight Major League starts, and he became the fourth-fastest pitcher since 1914 to toss a nine-inning shutout on 100 pitches or fewer. Since giving up nine runs (eight earned) in his big league debut against Toronto, Eflin has found some consistency. On June 14, Eflin surrendered nine hits in an 11-3 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed three home runs and walked three in 2 2/3 innings. Over the next month-and-a-half, Mackanin has liked what he has seen from Elfin's positive attitude. "It says an awful lot about him," Mackanin said, "and if you were to see him the next day after the Toronto debacle that he had, he looked like he was just ready. He knew what he had to do." Two games later, Eflin earned his first quality start against the Giants. He has yet to give up more than three earned runs since his debut. Then, on July 1, Eflin threw his first complete game in a 5-1 win against the Braves on 92 pitches. Eflin's only eight starts into his career, so odds are he won't throw a complete game every four starts or so. But the mental progress he has made since his debut helps him keep his composure, no matter how deep into games he pitches. "You learn to focus really hard before games and before a series on executing game plans and going over every hitter and making him feel uncomfortable," Eflin said. "And we've just been doing a good job as a staff of doing that."

Bullpen Shuffle – The Phillies designated lefty Daniel Stumpf for assignment and called up right-hander Severino Gonzalez prior to Friday's 4-0 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. Stumpf had recently returned from an 80-game suspension for testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing drug. In five innings this season, Stumpf allowed six runs for a 10.80 ERA. The Phillies took Stumpf from Kansas City in the Rule 5 Draft in December, so he would have to clear waivers before he can be placed in Philadelphia's Minor Leagues. "We just didn't feel that he was, you know the timing is tough, with what happened and everything, and we needed somebody that was pitching better right now," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's all." From June 17-July 9, Gonzalez went 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 11 appearances. At Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, Gonzalez posted a 3.31 ERA in 35 1/3 innings.

Today In Phils History – The Phillies tallied a team record 27 hits in a 13 inning loss to the Pirates in 1930. A brief segment of the Phillies and Cubs game from Wrigley Field was shown as the 1st live transatlantic television broadcast in 1962. Steve Carlton secured his 200th career victory on this day in 1978. Frank Viola was pitching a no hitter against the Phillies in 1990 until Dickie Thon hit a grand slam against the lefty en route to a 7-4 win over the Mets. In 2011, Philadelphia Daily News writer Bill Conlin received the Spink Award from the MLB Hall of Fame. Finally, happy birthday to Joe Yingling (1866) and Jimmie Wilson (1900).

The Phillies are currently 45-53 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 45-52-1 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record.

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