Phillies

Phillies 7, Royals 0: Zach Eflin tosses complete game shutout

Phillies 7, Royals 0: Zach Eflin tosses complete game shutout

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KANSAS CITY — Zach Eflin continued his recent run of excellence in leading the Phillies to a 7-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

The 25-year-old right-hander pitched the second shutout of his career and his second complete game in three starts.

Eflin has allowed just two runs in 25 innings over his last three starts. He is now 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA. Only five pitchers in the National League entered Saturday with a better ERA.

The Phillies are 3-2 on the roadtrip with one game to play. They lead the NL East at 22-16.

The keys

• Well, for starters there was Eflin.

• Kansas City starter Brad Keller walked four batters in five-plus innings. The Phillies turned three of them into runs.

• Rhys Hoskins came back from an 0-2 count with two outs in the third inning and stroked a two-run single to give the Phils a 2-0 lead. Hoskins is moving up the RBI leaderboard. He has 34. The only National Leaguers with more entering Saturday were Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich.

• Odubel Herrera swung it well with a double, a triple and two runs scored.

Eflin’s night

He continues to show outstanding economy of pitches. He threw 89 pitches through eight innings and needed 110 to complete his shutout.

He held the Royals to four hits, three of which were singles, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. He hit two batters. The only extra-base hit that Eflin allowed was a double by Alex Gordon with two outs in the ninth.

Eflin featured a four-seam fastball that reached 96 mph and he complemented that pitch with a slider and two-seam fastball. Andrew Knapp was behind the plate for the third straight time with Eflin. All three games have been outstanding performances. Knapp could end up catching Eflin again in Thursday’s afternoon game against Milwaukee in Philadelphia. The pairing is coincidental and manager Gabe Kapler has been adamant that he’s against the idea of pitchers having a personal catcher.

Transactions

Vince Velasquez went on the IL. Reliever Austin Davis was recalled. Lefty Cole Irvin will be activated in time to pitch Sunday, at which time the Phillies will have to make another roster move. Irvin will be making his big-league debut (see story).

Also, Aaron Altherr, who was designated for assignment last weekend, was claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants.

Up next

The Phillies will play the final game of the series and the road trip Sunday afternoon. Irvin will face Kansas City right-hander Jacob Junis (3-3, 5.52).

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More on the Phillies

Phillies trade rumors: Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, Whit Merrifield and more

Phillies trade rumors: Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, Whit Merrifield and more

With so many boxes to check this offseason, the Phillies may have to get creative and make a trade. 

A year ago, GM Matt Klentak orchestrated a deal to acquire Jean Segura from the Mariners for Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford. Nobody saw that move coming from a Phillies front office that moves quietly.

Why might a trade again be necessary for the Phils? There is very little of appeal in the center field market, one of the Phillies' positions of need. The top five free-agent centerfielders are Jarrod Dyson, Brett Gardner, Billy Hamilton, Cameron Maybin and Juan Lagares. Yuck. Maybe a team can convince itself Marcell Ozuna can play center but he hasn't in two years.

One potential trade target to keep in the back of your mind? Pirates centerfielder Starling Marte. The Pirates are rebuilding, will have a new GM and manager in 2020, and could get value for Marte, who has a pair of club options left on his contract in 2020 and 2021 at $24 million total. From a Phillies standpoint, it would be an offensive and defensive upgrade that likely would not cost a tippy-top prospect.

The relief market is also lackluster. Lefty Will Smith is the best name in that market. Dellin Betances is a bounce-back project after a year lost to injury. Drew Pomeranz will attract interest after finding success as a reliever in 2019. Sergio Romo is still getting outs.

But if the Phillies want an upper-tier reliever, the trade market should offer more than free agency. Back-end relievers like Raisel Iglesias and Ken Giles could be had.

The Phillies are not the only team that could make a score in a trade this winter. The Padres and White Sox, who both missed the playoffs the entire decade from 2010-19, stick out as teams ripe for deals. They have promising young cores and the need for a(nother) star. In San Diego's case, it will look to put another piece around Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack. In Chicago's case, the goal is to build around Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Dylan Cease, though one or more them may have to be sacrificed to land that big fish.

Marte, mentioned above, isn't the only intriguing potential trade candidate this winter. 

The Indians could move one or both of shortstop Francisco Lindor and former Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber

The Mookie Betts drama persists in Boston. 

What will the Cubs do with Kris Bryant?

Is this the year the Royals deal Whit Merrifield

How about pitchers like Matthew Boyd and Robbie Ray, who were not traded at the deadline?

Surely, some of these conversations are taking place now in Arizona at the GM Meetings.

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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman predict where the top 12 MLB free agents will land in Monday's At the Yard podcast.

• Anthony Rendon

• Gerrit Cole

• Stephen Strasburg

• Zack Wheeler

• Madison Bumgarner

• Josh Donaldson

• Mike Moustakas

• Rick Porcello

• Cole Hamels

• Hyun-Jin Ryu

• Nick Castellanos

• Didi Gregorius

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