ATLANTA — Zach Eflin can now erase the memories of his last two major-league starts — at least temporarily.
Eflin pitched seven strong innings on Tuesday night in the Phillies’ 5-2 win over the Braves (see Instant Replay). He allowed two runs with three strikeouts and one walk. He also went 1 for 3 with an RBI at the plate and won his first big-league game since July 22, 2016.
“Eflin was really good,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “The first inning, he didn’t look like he had a real good feel for his breaking stuff. After that, he settled down.”
That’s quite different from the last two starts he made in May, when he allowed seven runs to the Reds and eight runs to the Rockies before getting shipped out to Triple A Lehigh Valley.
And his work in the minors wasn’t exemplary. In seven games (six starts) since being sent down, Eflin was 0-4 with a 5.17 ERA.
Eflin looked nothing like that guy on Tuesday. He limited the Braves to seven hits and was helped out by some outstanding defense.
“I can’t put my finger on anything,” Eflin said. “I’ve pitched very good and I’ve pitched very bad. I worked on some mechanical stuff in Triple A and I feel like I’m back to my old self. I feel comfortable on the mound.”
Eflin gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman in the first inning, but avoided any major trouble until the seventh inning. In that frame, Eflin walked Nick Markakis and gave up back-to-back singles to Kurt Suzuki and Matt Adams.
After a mound visit from pitching coach Bob McClure, Eflin retired the next two batters on soft fly balls and got pinch-hitter Danny Santana on a comebacker to end the threat.
“I was excited about the way I finished,” Eflin said. “To be able to hunker down and get the guys I needed to get out was big for me. Especially going down, working on everything I needed to work on and to come back and show I could fight back and get through that inning.”
Eflin was the beneficiary of some stellar defense, some of it by his own doing. Freddy Galvis turned a nice double play in the first inning on a bouncer to Eflin. The Phillies turned an inning-ending double play in the second, and Galvis had an over-the-shoulder grab in the fourth.
Some of Eflin’s issues have been physical; he had problems with his knees, but those are now healthy. The other issues have been mechanical in nature. While working through his problems in the minor leagues, he changed his position on the pitching rubber and now begins his delivery in the middle.
“It’s all about finding a consistent release point and finding that consistency,” Mackanin said. “He got his knees fixed and I think that has something to do with his command. He certainly pitched well tonight. Give him a lot of credit for going through the struggles.”
On a team that is desperate for starting pitchers to join ace Aaron Nola, Eflin is eager to become part of the solution.
“I want to be a part of this team and the future,” he said. “I want to go through the ups and downs with these guys. I want to be here and I want to win a lot of ball games.”