Days like today are why there was so much excitement for the 2016 Phillies. It wasn't exciting because we saw them leading the National League East and playing over .500 into May, not because we didn't predict that (we didn't) but because that wasn't the point. After a revolving door of Sean O'Sullivans and Severino Gonzalezes and Jerome Williamses, the prospect of prospects loomed large in 2016. We knew we would get to see the presumptive future of the franchise debut in the major leagues. We didn't know when we would see that, but we knew we would see it.
Today, then, being the debut of maybe organizational top-10 prospect Zach Eflin, marked the beginning of that version of fun we anticipated heading into the season. It didn't have the same level of hype we'll likely see when J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams make their debuts, but, because it was the first such debut, it made us a bit giddy all the same.
For one inning, at least, that elation was justified. Although Eflin gave up a run after a Josh Donaldson double, a Michael Saunders walk, a Russel Martin single, he struck out both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on some pretty curveballs.
Eflin wastes no time getting his first major league K pic.twitter.com/ma6pjCax5k— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) June 14, 2016
Eflin with another K! pic.twitter.com/DWPyOOlRAR— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) June 14, 2016
The walks and location ended up being a problem for Eflin as the game went on though--and, asa spoiler, it didn't go on much longer as a result. He gave up two more runs in the second after a leadoff home run from Kevin Pillar and a two-out double from Josh Donaldson that scored Jose Bautista. But Bautista reached on an error, so only two of those three runs were earned. His first two innings weren't the best, but they were at least serviceable.
Then, the third inning happened. After a fly out from Michael Saunders to start the inning, the wheels came off. Russell Martin walked and former-Phillies Ezekiel Carrera followed with a dinger to right. Two singles, a fly out, and a walk later, Josh Donaldson came to the plate with two outs. With two doubles under his belt off Eflin already, he unleashed a grand slam that just stayed to the right of the left field foul pole to make it a 9-0 game. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a ground rule double to end Eflin's day.
His line of 2.2 innings, 9 runs (8 earned), 9 hits, 3 strikeouts, and 2 walks is the farthest thing from sexy, but hey, he's at least as good as Big Game James Shields, right? Silver lining, that. The crap-coated linings:
Zach Eflin finished with a Game Score of 5 in his big-league debut. that's the sixth-worst debut mark in recorded baseball history— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) June 14, 2016
With a 9-0 game at the end of three innings, with this Phillies offense and Marcus Stroman on the mound for the Blue Jays, this game was over. Brett Oberholtzer, god bless his soul, came in and did yeoman's work for 3.1 innings to stop the bleeding. He gave up no runs and held the Blue Jay to only three hits. It's not often that Oberholtzer turns in the best pitching performance of the day for the Phillies, but this wasn't a typical day.
The Phillies, perhaps inspired by the same demon that possessed Oberholtzer, showed some life later in the game. Peter Bourjos hit a triple in the sixth and came in to score on a Jimmy Paredes double. In the 7th, Cesar Hernandez hit a home run. Demons were definitely involved in all three of those events, I can assure you that.
All magic comes with an expiration date though--the genie only grants three wishes, you see--and it expired with the entrance of Colton Murray into the game for the seventh inning. Following a one-out walk to Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion took his parrot for a stroll around the bases:
The Phillies landed a glancing blow in the top of the eight, playing small ball to score Paredes after a lead-off single, but that was it. It wasn't quite the debut we hoped we would get when we entered April with an insatiable longing for prospects, but, as seen with the debuts of Julio Urias, Jose Berrios, and Sean Manea elsewhere in baseball, debuts don't always go that smoothly, even for the best of prospects.