Phillies

Gabe Kapler makes an important investment in an important pitcher

Gabe Kapler makes an important investment in an important pitcher

Confidence is baseball’s magic potion and teams these days spend big money on sports psychologists who, among other things, try to help players brew that important intangible. But sometimes there’s nothing scientific about the building of a player’s confidence. Sometimes it just takes the boss showing a little faith in the guy.

Gabe Kapler did more than preside over the Phillies’ sixth win in eight games on Sunday. He made an important investment in an important pitcher who seems primed for a big payoff this season.

Taking the mound the day before his 25th birthday, Zach Eflin backboned a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins with seven innings of one-run ball. He got help, lots of it, particularly from Rhys Hoskins, who clubbed a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth, left fielder Andrew McCutchen, who gunned down a run at the plate, and relievers David Robertson, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris, who combined for six outs to protect a one-run lead.

Eflin acknowledged that he did not do it alone.

“McCutchen, Hoskins, the bullpen — they deserve everything in this game,” he said.

The hat tip was not surprising because Eflin is a class guy. But his impact on the win was also huge because he’s the guy who kept the Phillies in the game on a day when they faced a tough arm in Jose Berrios and produced only four hits.

Eflin’s day actually did not start well as Max Kepler hit the fourth pitch of the day into the seats. After that, Eflin pitched shutout ball the rest of the day.

The right-hander was nearly lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He got a reprieve and struck out two batters in the sixth, including Jonathan Schoop, the third out, on a 95-mph fastball on his 95th pitch of the day.

It seemed plausible that Eflin’s day would have been over at that point. But Kapler sent him out for the seventh, with the lead, and Eflin responded with a 1-2-3 inning on 10 pitches.

Kapler came into the game wanting to rest Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez so he was looking for a little extra from Eflin. But Eflin wouldn’t have gotten that extra inning if he hadn’t been effective and earned the manager’s confidence.

“He earned the opportunity to go back out there,” Kapler said. “He was so effective, I thought it was the right time to give him that rope.

“Each time we give somebody an opportunity to do a little bit more than they did the last time out, we see it as an investment. If they come through that with flying colors, like Zach did, it just creates a whole bunch more confidence in the dugout that the next time he can go to that 105, 110, 115 mark and do so successfully.”

Eflin was pumped that the boss believed in him.

“It was huge,” he said. “Because that doesn’t happen a lot with me. Typically when I’m at 90-plus pitches through six innings, they pull me. It was really nice to see that confidence that Gabe had in me and I had in myself.”

The Phillies’ rebuild started with Eflin when he was acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers in December 2014. Eflin has had some very good moments in a Phillies uniform, particularly last June when he went 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts. He’s got the talent to be a very good major-league starter. Now, he just needs the consistency. It might be coming. Through two starts in the young season, he’s been the Phillies’ best pitcher. He has given up just nine hits and one run over 12 innings. He has walked one and struck out 14.

If these Phillies are going to go where they’d like to, Eflin needs to keep delivering.

The manager has faith in him.

“If he’s pitching like he’s pitching right now, which is as good as anybody in either league, then it would mean that we have three potential Cy Young award winners,” said Kapler, referring also to Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

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Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field

Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — J.T. Realmuto was a standout offensively and defensively in leading the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Realmuto was the ultimate hero with a tie-breaking homer in the top of the 10th inning.

Earlier in the game, he drove in the Phils’ first run and made a nice play at the plate to help cut down a run.

Seranthony Dominguez blew a two-run lead as the Cubs surged to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

The Phils tied the game on a two-out hit by Jean Segura in the top of the ninth.

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings of one-run ball in his return to Wrigley Field.

The Phils have won four in a row. They are 28-19.

The Cubs are 27-18.

The keys

• Maikel Franco stroked a one-out double in the top of the ninth and Andrew McCutchen came back from being down 0-2 to draw a big two-out walk before Segura tied the game with a bloop single to right.

• Dominguez could not throw strikes in the eighth, his second inning of work. He walked two and they both scored on a game-tying triple by Daniel Descalso. Descalso scored the go-ahead run on an error by Segura. Ultimately, Segura atoned.

• Juan Nicasio got a huge double-play ball to earn the save.

• The Phillies kept the game close in the early innings by playing excellent defense. They cut down runners at the plate in the second and fifth innings. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez made a nice, charging play and throw to get a force at the plate in the second inning. In the fifth, the Cubs loaded the bases against Arrieta with one out on a double, a walk and a single. Arrieta then got Albert Almora Jr. to hit a fly ball to rightfielder Bryce Harper. Anthony Rizzo tagged on the play, but Harper cut him down with a strong throw to catcher Realmuto. The throw was slightly up the line. Realmuto made an athletic play to step up on the ball and sweep back with the tag to get Rizzo for the third out.

• Moments after Harper’s throw (and Realmuto’s tag) ended the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies rallied for three two-out runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. Cubs’ starter Yu Darvish walked two batters, including Harper, in the inning and Realmuto and Hernandez had the big hits, both with two outs. Realmuto got the Phils on the board with an RBI single and Hernandez stroked a two-run triple down the right-field line to put the Phils ahead.

Arrieta's night

The veteran right-hander made his first start against the Cubs, the team with which he won a Cy Young Award and a World Series. He has now faced all 30 teams in his career.

Arrieta was not at his sharpest — he allowed 10 base runners over six innings — but he got important outs when he had to and was the beneficiary of some excellent defense. He allowed just one run over six innings and struck out four.

Sights and sounds

The Wrigley Field crowd saluted Arrieta with a standing ovation as he reached the batter’s box in the top of the third inning. Arrieta tipped his cap in appreciation.


Health check

Victor Arano’s sore elbow is not getting better. What does it mean? (see story)

Up next

Zach Eflin (5-4, 2.89) opposes lefty Jose Quintana (4-3, 3.68) on Tuesday night.

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Vince Velasquez feels great, but Victor Arano needs a second opinion

Vince Velasquez feels great, but Victor Arano needs a second opinion

CHICAGO — Vince Velasquez’s elbow is feeling better.

Victor Arano’s is not.

Let’s start with Arano:

One of the Phillies’ top relievers last season, Arano has had a difficult 2019. He struggled badly in spring training and opened the season with a quick trip to the minors. Most recently, he has been plagued by a sore right elbow.

Even after a month on the injured list, Arano is still feeling discomfort in the elbow. The team will send him to Los Angeles next Monday to be examined by noted orthopedist Neal ElAttrache.

“Victor came out of his last bullpen not feeling great so we’re going to get him a second opinion,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I’m concerned because he’s concerned. Any time that our pitchers have concerns, I’m going to be concerned right along with them.”

Could it be that Arano is on his way to Tommy John surgery?

“That doesn't feel like the concern right now,” Kapler said. “That’s not what we’re thinking. But to have him go get examined because he has a little bit of swelling and discomfort feels like the right play.”

As for Velasquez: He played long toss up to 120 feet on Monday and later said he felt completely healthy. The right-hander went on the injured list nine days ago with soreness in his elbow.

“No pain,” Velasquez said. “I’m 100 percent.”

“He’s good,” Kapler confirmed. “There are no long-term concerns.”

Velasquez is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Wednesday.

At some point in the near future, the Phils are going to have to make a decision on Velasquez. He is out of minor-league options. Once he’s activated, he will have to go back in the starting rotation or be used out of the bullpen. Velasquez wants to remain a starter, but his replacement, lefty Cole Irvin, has authored two quality starts (and victories) since being called up. Irvin pitches Wednesday night against the Cubs and Cole Hamels.

Also of note, outfielder Roman Quinn, on the IL with a strained groin, has progressed to the point where he’s probably just a week away from playing in minor-league games.

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