It’s hard to throw the ball any better than the Phillies did in this opening series.
The Phils beat the Braves 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park to complete a three-game sweep. Alec Bohm had the game-winning hit, a line-drive single up the middle with men on first and second in the bottom of the eighth.
This first series of 2021, though, was all about pitching and defense.
Here was the line from Phillies pitchers in the three games:
- 28 innings
- 12 hits
- 3 runs
- 5 walks
- 35 strikeouts
The two runs Aaron Nola allowed in 6⅔ innings on opening day represented the worst outing of the three, which is saying something. After Zack Wheeler allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts Saturday, Zach Eflin followed suit with a breezy seven-inning start. The only run he allowed was a Travis d’Arnaud solo shot with two outs in the seventh.
In total, Nola, Wheeler and Eflin had a 1.31 ERA in the series with 24 strikeouts and three walks.
Oh, and the bullpen went three games and 7⅓ innings without allowing a run.
More on Eflin
Eflin overcame a 23-pitch first inning to throw just 57 over the next six innings, an average of 9.5. That’ll work. He struck out eight and induced two double plays.
Eflin’s strikeout rate has spiked as he’s hit his prime. He struck out 28.6% of the hitters he faced last season. To put that in perspective, he was at 12.5% as recently as 2017.
Your early home run leader
Andrew Knapp hit the Phillies’ first home run of the season, a blast off the video board in front of the second deck in right field.
He added an infield single in the seventh and advanced to third base with two outs on an errant pickoff attempt by lefty A.J. Minter. Roman Quinn struck out to end that threat.
Knapp will catch most of Eflin’s starts. He caught eight of the 11 last season.
J.T. Realmuto pinch-hit for Adam Haseley in the seventh inning and struck out.
Jose Alvarado left the bases loaded in his first outing but was squeaky clean in this one. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the bottom of the Braves' order, striking out two and throwing just two balls.
He threw seven sinkers in the inning. They registered 98, 98, 99, 100, 99, 100 and 99 mph.
Alvarado got the win.
Hector Neris, pitching in a third straight game, picked up the save with a higher-degree-of-difficulty ninth inning. After a Ronald Acuña Jr. strikeout and Ozzie Albies flyout, Neris walked Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna before retiring Travis d'Arnaud to end the game.
It looked like Neris was juiced up and overthrowing the ball. He threw more balls than strikes and missed often on the outside corner but did enough to finish the job.
Another web gem for Didi
Didi Gregorius made another circus catch Sunday, running and jumping to snare a liner up the middle by Albies to end the top of the sixth.
Albies has had some brutal luck in this series. He was also the victim of Gregorius’ web gem on opening day, and he was the runner thrown out the plate by Quinn in the 10th inning of that game.
The Phillies begin a three-game series Monday with the Mets, who haven’t yet played a game. Their opening series against the Nationals was postponed as a handful of Nats players tested positive for COVID-19.
Because that series was postponed, the Phillies will see Jacob deGrom in Game 1. The flipside is that if the Mets stay on rotation and don’t skip anyone in their rotation, the schedule change would have deGrom miss next week’s four-game series between the teams.
Monday at 7:05 on NBCSP+: LHP Matt Moore vs. Jacob deGrom
Tuesday at 7:05 on PHL17: Chase Anderson vs. Marcus Stroman
Wednesday at 4:05 on NBCSP: Aaron Nola vs. LHP David Peterson