When May turned to June, Phils starter Zach Eflin was coming off three straight starts in which he hadn’t been able to complete five innings. With Cole Irvin and Enyel de los Santos starring at triple-A, Eflin was probably one more bad start away from yet another trip up the Pennsylvania Turnpike extension to Allentown.
A month later, he’s arguably the best Phillies starter not named Aaron Nola. Eflin finished off a 5-0 June Wednesday night with seven shutout innings against an explosive Yankees lineup. He limited New York to four hits, all singles, and two walks, striking out six. The Yankees seriously threatened only once, putting men on first and second with two outs in the second inning, but Eflin struck out opposing starter Luis Cessa to escape.
Eflin wraps up June having pitched to a 1.76 ERA across 30.2 innings, allowing 24 hits and six walks against 28 strikeouts for the month. Maybe most impressive, he repeatedly played stopper—breaking a three game losing streak on June 5 against the Cubs, snapping a four-game skid with a win over the Brewers on June 10, besting Milwaukee again on June 16 following a loss, and ending a three-game slide with tonight’s gem. While Nick Pivetta has gotten deserved praise for his 2018 turnaround after posting a 6-plus ERA last season, Eflin’s results—he’s now 6-2 with a 3.02 ERA on the year, and a K rate nearly double his previous career mark—might reflect just as well on pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
On the offensive side, the Phils got all they needed when Rhys Hoskins smacked his 12th homer of the season, a three-run shot, off Cessa in the bottom of the second. The Phillies forced Cessa out of the game after just three innings in his first start of the season, but couldn't dent the Yankees’ MLB-best bullpen even though Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and David Robertson all sat for the evening.
(About that: what the hell with the Yankees. They send out four pitchers on the night, none older than 27 or making any money to speak of in MLB terms, all with decent-to-good stuff. Their lineup features four stars age 26 or younger, also not making much money, plus The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton. They have ace Luis Severino, who might or might not have been cloned from Pedro Martinez. How is any of this fair? And why does this iteration of the Yankees somehow bother me more than the lineup of Hessians they ran out every year back in Big Stein’s days?)
Gabe Kepler lifted Eflin after 92 pitches in favor of Seranthony Dominguez, who was probably itching to get back in after his first career blown save Sunday night. Mission accomplished: Dominguez went six up, six down with three strikeouts to earn the two-inning save, finishing it with a swinging K of Gleybar Torres.
The Phils gain a game on the Braves, 6-5 losers to the Reds, and remain 2.5 out of first place heading into this weekend’s four game set with the Nationals.