The Chicago Cubs honored Jake Arrieta before the game, but this was Zach Eflin’s night. After a discouraging sweep at the hands of the Giants, the Phillies needed a lift from their young starter, and that’s exactly what he provided.
Heading into the game, this didn’t seem like an encouraging matchup for the Phillies. Eflin was coming off two consecutive shaky starts, and now he would face a Cubs lineup that was leading the major leagues in runs scored. And the offense would try to break out of its slump against Kyle Hendricks who has been one of the league’s best starters over the past few seasons.
As an astute observer pointed out, this has not been Hendricks’ best season, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would shut down the Phillies. Nick Williams made sure of that in the second inning when he got the Phillies on the board with a two-run home run.
Williams’ blast alone doubled the Phillies production from the Giants series, but the Phillies weren’t done scoring. In the third, they used a small ball approach to add three more runs, scoring via bases loaded walk, sacrifice fly, and fielder’s choice.
Pitching with a five-run lead must seem like a foreign concept to Phillies pitchers these days, but Eflin didn’t waste the run support. He pitched 7.2 innings, and didn’t allow a run until the final batter he faced (Anthony Rizzo) hit an RBI double. Eflin wasn’t overpowering - only two strikeouts - but he coaxed the Cubs into plenty of weak contact.
The Phillies’ bats again went quiet after their early outburst - although they did manage to score an insurance run in the ninth - but it didn’t matter. Eflin was dominant, Edubray Ramos was able to finish off the eighth, and in the ninth, Seranthony Dominguez closed it out.
Considering how poorly the Giants series went, I don’t think its an understatement to call this one of the best wins of the season. With Aaron Nola on the mound on Wednesday, they’ll have a prime opportunity to put last weekend’s unpleasantness far behind them.