Phillies

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

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

BOX SCORE 

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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After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

CHICAGO — And this is why you need to close out those one-run leads in the ninth inning when you have a chance to take two in a row from the hard-hitting Chicago Cubs in their electric home-field environs of Wrigley Field …

Because sooner or later, the Cubs are going to break out the lumber and lay a beating on you.

That’s just what happened to the Phillies on Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours after they suffered a painful walk-off loss to the Cubs, the Phils were pounded by a score of 8-4 (see observations). The Phils are now tasked with the difficult challenge of beating Jon Lester in Thursday’s series finale to get out of Chicago with a split. Then it’s on to face another lumber company in Milwaukee, the same one that outscored the Phils, 22-6, in the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.

The Cubs didn’t need to wait until the ninth inning to beat the Phillies on Wednesday night and they didn’t do it against the bullpen. They teed off on rookie lefty Cole Irvin for 856 feet worth of home runs in the third and fifth innings. Anthony Rizzo belted a mammoth three-run shot in the third and Albert Almora Jr. crushed a first-pitch grand slam in the fifth.

Later in the game, the Cubs got a 449-foot homer from Javiez Baez against Enyel De Los Santos. All of the Cubbies’ runs came on homers.

“The wind was blowing out,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We saw what it looked like in batting practice. The ball was rocketing out of the ballpark.”

The Phils were only able to rocket one ball out of the yard, but Andrew McCutchen’s solo shot in the eighth was too little too late.

The big subplot in this game was Cole Hamels. The lefty made his first-ever start against his former club. The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Hamels, blew up his pitch count and got him out of the game after four innings. But the Phillies needed to do more against Hamels. They left two men in scoring position in the first inning and the bases loaded in the fourth.

“The difference in the game was we really did a good job of building Hamels’ pitch count, but they were able to deliver the knockout blows,” Kapler said. “They scored all of their runs on two swings [against Irvin]. We just weren't able to deliver that one knockout blow, that uppercut. They were able to do that.”

Irvin is a command lefty who can’t afford to miss spots up and over the plate. He tried to go down and away with a 3-0 fastball against Rizzo in the third and the Cubs’ slugger crushed the heart-of-the-plate pitch off the scoreboard to tie the game.

Irvin pitched around Willson Contreras in the fifth to get to Almora. The walk to Contreras loaded the bases and brought pitching coach Chris Young to the mound. The plan was to go at Almora with changeups, but not, as Irvin said, with changeups that were “middle-in and belt high.” Irvin’s first pitch to Almora was right there and the Cubs’ centerfielder crushed it for four runs.

“Unfortunately, I just didn't make my pitch there and didn't make my pitch to Rizzo, either,” Irvin said. “They hurt me for it. I didn’t even get through five innings so I’m really disappointed.”

The big question now is: Will Irvin get another start next week against the Cardinals at home? His performance in his first two big-league starts would suggest that he deserves a look beyond a difficult outing in his third big-league start. But the Phillies can easily go in a different direction because Vince Velasquez is just about ready to come off the disabled list. That issue was talked about extensively before the game (see story).

After the game, Kapler wasn’t ready to make any decisions.

“I think that’s something that we want to spend some time thinking about,” he said. “After a loss like this and after we just kind of got punched, I think the main thing is that we go back and digest and look at what happened in the game and really evaluate it with a little distance between what happened. That’s usually how I approach those things.”

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Cubs 8, Phillies 4: Cubs drop a couple of big bombs on rookie Cole Irvin

Cubs 8, Phillies 4: Cubs drop a couple of big bombs on rookie Cole Irvin

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs, ranked fourth in the majors in runs per game and OPS, showed off their thunderous lineup in laying an 8-4 beating on the Phillies at sold-out Wrigley Field on Wednesday night.

The Phils actually held an early 3-0 lead on Cole Hamels, who faced his old team for the first time. Hamels did not pitch well, but neither did Phillies rookie Cole Irvin. He allowed seven runs on a three-run homer and a grand slam. All eight of the Cubs’ runs came on homers.

The loss was the Phillies’ second in as many nights against the Cubs. The Phils blew a one-run lead in the ninth on Tuesday night and suffered a walk-off loss.

The Phils remain atop the NL East at 28-21.

The keys

• Irvin is a pitcher who needs to locate well and change speeds. He doesn’t have the stuff to survive in the middle of the plate. He was hurt badly by two juicy pitches over the heart of the plate. Anthony Rizzo crushed a grooved, 3-0 fastball that registered just 87.7 mph high off the scoreboard in right field for a game-tying three-run homer in the third inning and Albert Almora Jr. clubbed a two-out grand slam in the fourth on a first-pitch changeup that was up and over the heart of the plate.

• Phillies hitters made Hamels throw pitches. He ran his count to 99 and was out of the game after four innings. The Phils got to Hamels for three runs, but they could have done more. They left runners at second and third in the first inning and the bases full in the fourth.

Irvin's night

The rookie lefty showed moments of poise. For instance, after serving up the 437-foot, three-run bomb to Rizzo with no outs in the third, he got three quick outs on his way to retiring seven straight. But the walls caved in in the fifth when he gave up a one-out double and two walks to set the table for Almora.

In all, Irvin gave up seven hits, four for extra bases, in 4 2/3 innings. He’s had two good starts and one poor one. The poor one came in an intimidating environment against an intimidating lineup. It would not be surprising if Phillies officials took that into account and stuck with Irvin for his next turn (see story). If they decide against that, they could reinsert Vince Velasquez into the rotation. He’s pretty much recovered from a sore elbow and ready to go and the Phils face a decision on what to do with him (see story).

Center of attention

Scott Kingery got his second straight start in center field and third in four games since coming off the injured list. He misplayed a routine fly ball in the third and it hurt. The ball dropped in for a single and Rizzo followed with his three-run homer. Kingery, primarily an infielder, has not looked completely comfortable the last two nights in center field.

Harper's night

Bryce Harper had three hits, including a bunt single in the Phils’ two-run third inning. Surprisingly, it was the 11th bunt single of Harper’s career and second this season.

Up next

The four-game series comes to an end Thursday afternoon with a good pitching matchup — Aaron Nola (4-0, 4.47) against Jon Lester (3-2, 2.09). The Phils need a win for a series split.

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