Phillies

Phillies 2, Twins 1: Zach Eflin tosses a gem and Rhys Hoskins' home run saves the day

Phillies 2, Twins 1: Zach Eflin tosses a gem and Rhys Hoskins' home run saves the day

BOX SCORE 

Rhys Hoskins belted the go-ahead home run and Zach Eflin pitched a gem one day before his 25th birthday to lead the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Phillies took two of three in the interleague series to improve to 6-2.

Hoskins' third homer of the season, a two-run shot capping a tremendous at-bat, came with two outs in the sixth.

Eflin pitched seven innings of one-run ball to go to 2-0.

Relievers David Robertson, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris combined for the final six outs to close out the one-run victory. Neris got the final three outs for the save.

The keys

• Hoskins’ at-bat in the bottom of the sixth against Minnesota starter Jose Berrios was a magnificent nine-pitch battle in which the Phillies’ cleanup man fouled off three full-count offerings before planting a breaking ball in the flower boxes in left-center.

Berrios gave up just two hits in six innings.

• Manager Gabe Kapler showed confidence in Eflin in sending him back to the mound for the top of the seventh inning. Eflin was at 95 pitches, but had ended the previous inning with a strikeout on a 95-mph fastball. Pitching with a one-run lead thanks to Hoskins’ homer, Eflin responded with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to end his day. Kapler’s decision to stick with Eflin is the kind of move that builds confidence in a pitcher and pays dividends down the road.

• Andrew McCutchen has debuted brilliantly at the plate and on the base paths with his new club. He added defense to the mix in this game by cutting down a run at the plate with a great throw in the fourth inning. In a one-run contest, it was a game changer and the crowd of 39,735 gave him a standing ovation.

Eflin’s day

The right-hander allowed a leadoff homer to Max Kepler (he homered in all three games of the series) but pitched shutout ball the rest of the way. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out five.

Eflin has been the Phillies’ best starter so far. In two outings, he has given up just one run over 12 innings. He has walked one, struck out 14 and allowed nine hits.

Health check

Roman Quinn had three hits, including a homer, a walk and three runs scored for Single A Clearwater on Saturday. Quinn missed extensive time in spring training with an oblique strain. It would not be surprising to see him back with the big club sometime this week.

The Phils face a tough decision in making room for Quinn, who is out of minor-league options. Aaron Altherr is also out of minor-league options and the Phils are likely to lose him (and the centerfield depth he provides) if they try to sneak him through waivers. Nick Williams does have options, but he’s a valuable left-handed power threat off the bench. Stay tuned.

Up next

The Phillies open a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night. Vince Velasquez makes his first start of the season in the opener against Nats’ right-hander Anibal Sanchez. Aaron Nola pitches Tuesday night against Stephen Strasburg and Nick Pivetta closes it out Wednesday night against Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phils split a two-game series with Washington last week.

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman react to the MLBPA's latest proposal, the Roy Halladay documentary and recall some of their favorite moments from the Phillies' opening playoff series in 2008.

• Are players and owners closer to a financial resolution?

• It seems like the two sides are having completely separate conversation.

• What's more likely: 82 games or 114?

• Our takeaways from the Roy Halladay documentary.

• Halladay may have ended up coaching with the Phillies.

• 1-on-1 with Cole Hamels about 2008 playoffs.

• Best moments and memories of that 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers.

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Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

You need a lot to break right to win a championship in any sport but particularly in baseball, where we routinely see the best team fail to win it all. It doesn't matter how you've performed in the preceding six months and 162 games, any team is susceptible to a bad week in October.

The 2008 Phillies were not the favorite to win the World Series when that postseason began. They had won 92 games with a prolific offense. The Cubs won 97, and in the AL, the Red Sox, Rays and Angels all won 95-plus.

The teams with the two best records in baseball that year (Angels at 100-62, Cubs at 97-64), were dispatched quickly in the playoffs, with the Cubs suffering a sweep to the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Angels going down in four games to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Who knows how much differently the 2008 playoffs would have gone for the Phillies if they drew the Cubs or Dodgers in the NLDS, or the Red Sox instead of the Rays in the World Series. It obviously doesn't matter because reality > hypotheticals, but that 2008 postseason was a good example of timing being everything.

The 2008 Phillies were a better team than the 2008 Brewers, but they also had two huge benefits in that series beyond home-field advantage. Those benefits were the Brewers' top two starting pitchers.

CC Sabathia was the blockbuster trade acquisition in '08. The Brewers acquired him on July 7, three weeks before the deadline, and he dominated for more than two months. In 17 starts with Milwaukee, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Ridiculously, he pitched seven complete games with three shutouts in those 17 starts.

But by the time the postseason began, Sabathia was spent. His start against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS was his fifth straight start on short rest. Four days earlier, Sabathia had thrown 122 pitches in a complete game.

It was clear pretty early in that game that Sabathia was not the pitcher he was down the stretch, and Phillies fans will never forget the second inning. (We will explore the famous nine-pitch Brett Myers walk and Shane Victorino grand slam in more depth Tuesday.)

The other advantage the Phillies had was that the Brewers' rock that year, Ben Sheets, found out at the end of the regular season that he needed Tommy John surgery and would be unable to pitch in the playoffs. Sheets, who had a 3.24 ERA in 128 starts from 2004-08 and was a four-time All-Star, never ended up making a postseason start. 

Had he been healthy, Sheets would have started Game 1 for the Brewers ahead of Sabathia. Instead, that Game 1 start went to Yovani Gallardo, who had torn his ACL on May 1 and was unable to return until the final week of the regular season. 

Gallardo went on to have a decent 12-year career but he wasn't ready for that big moment in enemy territory in '08. The Phillies scored three runs off of him (unearned because of a Rickie Weeks error), and that was plenty of run support for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies clearly benefitted from the Brewers' starting pitching situation that October, but that doesn't discredit the business they took care of. In the NLDS, Prince Fielder went 1 for 14 (.071). Ryan Braun, who would go on to become a career Phillie-killer, had just an OK series, reaching base in five of 17 plate appearances and going hitless with runners in scoring position until his final at-bat of the series, an RBI single with the Phillies up five runs in their Game 4 clincher.

The Brewers hit just .206/.271/.254 as a team in that series with one home run against the Phils.

The re-airs of the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run begin tonight on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The NLDS runs this week from Monday-Thursday, followed by the NLCS next week and the World Series the week after.

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