When you’re facing a certified ace there’s one thing that’s essential to have a chance to win that game: good pitching. The Phils were able to get that out of Zach Eflin when he faced Jose Berrios, the Minnesota Twins 24 year old Ace. Berrios was great but Eflin stuck with him, stride for stride, pitch for pitch. As a result the Phils showed they could win a different kind of game in a different kind of way – by scoring only two runs as opposed the their over six average.
This was Eflin’s second start of the year and it was the second time he’s had to face the opposition’s number one pitcher. First it was Max Scherzer and now Berrios. They say you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight so it follows that you shouldn’t have your fourth starter consistently face a number one but Zach is proving to be up to the task. For a pitcher who many believe had the lowest floor and the lowest ceiling of all the Phils starters the guy has been masterful early on.
The game started with a lead off home run by the Max Kepler, his third in as many games. It was the only run Eflin gave up in his seven strong innings and it was the only run he’s given up so far this short season. Eflin struck out five and walked one while allowing six hits.
Offensively the Phils, like most teams, couldn’t muster much against Berrios. He walked two and gave up two hits in his seven innings of work but one of those walks was to Andrew McCutchen who just happened to be on while one those hits, a home run by Rhys Hoskins, occurred. The homer, Rhys’s third of the season, concluded a fairly epic at bat in the sixth inning where Hoskins battled mightily by fouling off tough pitches until he could get one he could handle.
It should be pointed out that yet again the Phillies were able to make a free pass hurt the opposition, something they’ve excelled at through the first seven games of 2019. For Hoskins it was his 24th home run that either tied the game or gave his team the lead; he is third among active players in that category. Clutch.
Eflin came back out for the seventh and proceeded to gt three outs on ten pitches; his easiest inning of the day. For Eflin it was his 95th-105th pitches marking the third most he’s thrown in a game for his career.
One key moment in the game came in the fourth inning when Ehire Adrianza was batting with one out and Martin Gonzalez on second. Adrianza laced a one-hop line drive to left fielder Andrew McCutchen who executed perfect form by fielding the ball and throwing home in one motion in an attempt to nail Gonzalez at the plate. Realmuto, also exhibiting perfect form, caught the throw on one hop and tagged out Gonzalez with one fluid movement. Defensive plays like this are such a treat for Phillies fans after what they had to endure last season. That would have been the Twins second run.
The Phillies bullpen did it’s job by allowing only one base runner in three innings of work. Hector Neris recorded the save, his first of the season.
It’s nice to see the Phillies win a low scoring, pitchers duel type affair. They did so with timely hitting, a bit of slick defense and really excellent pitching from the starter and those tasked with finishing it out. There weren’t a lot of baserunners for the Phils - there weren’t even a lot of hard hit balls - but they worked a walk and banged out a home run and that was the difference in them walking away with their sixth win of the season and avoiding their third loss.
Minor observations: Cesar Hernandez is not being very patient and that’s probably why he’s not being very successful; Maikel Franco has really got his swing down and he’s not over-swinging and that’s probably why he IS being very successful; Jose Berrios is REALLY good; Even when the line up isn’t relentless it’s still very dangerous; Bryce Harper can apparently walk at will.
A quick side note: For those watching the game via the MLB.TV app, they now offer the option of listening to the radio broadcast while watching the tv feed (at least on Apple TV app, not sure about other platforms). It’s a very minor feature that is really cool and if you’re McCarthy/Davis averse (I am not) it gives you an alternative audio source with which to enjoy the game. Also available is just the straight “park” feed, with no commentary at all.