Zach Eflin ended his first half on a high note, pitching six scoreless innings to lead the Phillies to an 8-0 victory and a series win in Chicago.
He got a whole lot of help from Brad Miller, who hit three home runs in a rare start in place of Rhys Hoskins.
It’s the first time the Phillies have won a road series of at least four games since September 2017. They played 18 such series over that span, losing nine of them and splitting nine.
"It’s the best series that we’ve had, definitely," manager Joe Girardi said. "We pitched well, we really hit in three of the four games. Probably the best series we’ve had on the road to this point."
The Cubs had combined for 18 runs the previous two nights but the wind was blowing in from left field Thursday and Eflin kept them off the board by working ahead and attacking the zone.
Eflin threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 22 hitters he faced and generated a pair of double-play balls to improve to 4-6 with a 3.88 ERA through 17 starts.
He has allowed three runs in 19 innings in his last three starts against the Mets, Padres and Cubs.
“I thought it could’ve gone a lot better,” Eflin said of his own first half. “I’m happy with the way I battled, especially when my back’s been against the wall. But I’m confident and healthy heading into the break. I look forward to getting back out there with as much confidence as ever.”
Eflin was provided early insurance on J.T. Realmuto’s steal of home in the second inning. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius executed a double steal, with Gregorius drawing the throw at second and Realmuto bowling over Cubs catcher Robinson Chirinos for the Phillies’ first run. His steal of home was the first by a Phillies catcher since Carlos Ruiz in 2007.
Miller had it from there. He cut through the wind in left-field with a low line-drive into the bleachers for a solo shot in the third. Two innings later, he blasted one into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. He hit another towering two-run shot down the right-field line in the seventh inning, giving him nine for the season.
"It was incredible," Eflin said. "None of them were cheap shots. He absolutely crushed all three of them. Awesome night, everybody played great."
Gregorius added a fourth homer for the Phillies later in the seventh. In the four-game series, the Phillies scored 39 runs, hit 13 homers and had 23 extra-base hits.
Miller got the start at first base and hit second for Hoskins. The Phillies were facing Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay, who entered the night with an opponents’ OPS 403 points higher for lefties than for righties. Girardi sat Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen, playing Travis Jankowski in left field. Odubel Herrera started in center.
This was a series the Phillies needed for a slew of reasons. Among them:
- They didn’t want to leave with a split after scoring 28 runs in the first two games.
- To avoid selling at the trade deadline, they have to show Dave Dombrowski they’re capable of making a run in the NL East, making every game between now and July 30 crucial.
- They have to show themselves they are able to win on the road. Entering this series, they were 24-45 on the road since the start of 2020.
- Their final series of the first half, this weekend, is in Boston against a Red Sox team that is 20 games over .500 and has won eight in a row at home.
The first game at Fenway Park is Friday night at 7:10.
Vince Velasquez (3-3, 4.50) opposes right-hander Garrett Richards (4-5, 4.88).
Game 2 features a pair of lefties in Matt Moore (0-1, 5.60) and Martin Perez (7-4, 3.89).
In the final game before the All-Star break Sunday afternoon, Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.55) is set to face former Phillie Nick Pivetta (7-3, 4.09).