Phillies

Phillies fail to support Zach Eflin in loss to Marlins as skid continues

Phillies fail to support Zach Eflin in loss to Marlins as skid continues

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MIAMI — Zach Eflin turned in a stellar pitching performance in his 2018 big-league debut.

That was about the extent of the Phillies’ highlights on Tuesday night. The team lost, 2-1, to the Miami Marlins. It was the Phils’ fourth straight loss and second in as many nights to a Marlins club that sold off its top players in the offseason and is projected to be among baseball’s worst teams this season. That has not stopped the Marlins from beating the Phillies in three of five meetings this season.

The Marlins won it with a run in the bottom of the 10th inning. Cameron Maybin tripled with one out against Yacksel Rios and scored on a hit by Yadiel Rivera.

The Phillies left the bases loaded in the top of the 10th when Maikel Franco hit a line drive to shortstop for the third out.

The Phils left five men on base in the ninth and 10th.

They got the leadoff man on base in the top of the ninth. Slumping Carlos Santana snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a double to right. He never moved off second base. Hard-throwing Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero retired Franco on a first-pitch fly ball to center then hit Scott Kingery with a pitch before striking out Jorge Alfaro and Pedro Florimon to end the Phillies’ threat.

Kingery was hit on the right elbow by a 98-mph fastball. He eventually left the game. Losing him would be a blow as starting shortstop J.P. Crawford is already on the disabled list with a forearm injury. 

"It probably looked a lot worse than it was," Kingery said postgame (see story). "Thankfully, it missed pretty much all the important stuff and just got full bicep. It didn't feel good, obviously, but it should be all right."

The Phillies are 16-13.

Eflin was perfect through five innings and finished with six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. He walked none and struck out four. The only run he allowed came on a pinch-hit homer by Justin Bour with two outs in the sixth. Eflin picked off a runner at first during that at-bat, so the damage could have been worse.

Bour’s homer tied the game at 1-1. The Phillies had taken a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the fifth. Hoskins hit a 3-2 changeup from lefty Jarlin Garcia. Hoskins had been hitless in his previous 13 at-bats before the hit.

Eflin had been called up from Triple A to replace injured Ben Lively. He had allowed 10 hits and six runs in losing his previous start at Triple A.

The right-hander was one of the first pieces to join the Phillies’ rebuild when he came over from the Dodgers in a trade for Jimmy Rollins in December 2014. He made 11 starts in the majors each of the last two seasons, had some good starts and some bad starts but was mostly plagued by inconsistency and injury.

At 24, the right-hander has added strength to his 6-6 frame, thanks to all the physical rehab work he has done. The strength is showing in his fastball, which has more pop than it did in the past. The pitch registered 96 mph on the radar gun.

Notes
• Odubel Herrera singled in the fourth inning to improve his on-base streak to 31 straight games.

• Aaron Nola pitches against Jose Urena in the series finale Wednesday night.

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies