In return to Phillies, Zach Eflin shows improvement for 1st win of season

In return to Phillies, Zach Eflin shows improvement for 1st win of season

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ATLANTA — Zach Eflin can now erase the memories of his last two major-league starts — at least temporarily.

Eflin pitched seven strong innings on Tuesday night in the Phillies’ 5-2 win over the Braves (see Instant Replay). He allowed two runs with three strikeouts and one walk. He also went 1 for 3 with an RBI at the plate and won his first big-league game since July 22, 2016.   

“Eflin was really good,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “The first inning, he didn’t look like he had a real good feel for his breaking stuff. After that, he settled down.”

That’s quite different from the last two starts he made in May, when he allowed seven runs to the Reds and eight runs to the Rockies before getting shipped out to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

And his work in the minors wasn’t exemplary. In seven games (six starts) since being sent down, Eflin was 0-4 with a 5.17 ERA.

Eflin looked nothing like that guy on Tuesday. He limited the Braves to seven hits and was helped out by some outstanding defense.

“I can’t put my finger on anything,” Eflin said. “I’ve pitched very good and I’ve pitched very bad. I worked on some mechanical stuff in Triple A and I feel like I’m back to my old self. I feel comfortable on the mound.”

Eflin gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman in the first inning, but avoided any major trouble until the seventh inning. In that frame, Eflin walked Nick Markakis and gave up back-to-back singles to Kurt Suzuki and Matt Adams. 

After a mound visit from pitching coach Bob McClure, Eflin retired the next two batters on soft fly balls and got pinch-hitter Danny Santana on a comebacker to end the threat. 

“I was excited about the way I finished,” Eflin said. “To be able to hunker down and get the guys I needed to get out was big for me. Especially going down, working on everything I needed to work on and to come back and show I could fight back and get through that inning.”

Eflin was the beneficiary of some stellar defense, some of it by his own doing. Freddy Galvis turned a nice double play in the first inning on a bouncer to Eflin. The Phillies turned an inning-ending double play in the second, and Galvis had an over-the-shoulder grab in the fourth. 

Some of Eflin’s issues have been physical; he had problems with his knees, but those are now healthy. The other issues have been mechanical in nature. While working through his problems in the minor leagues, he changed his position on the pitching rubber and now begins his delivery in the middle.
 
“It’s all about finding a consistent release point and finding that consistency,” Mackanin said. “He got his knees fixed and I think that has something to do with his command. He certainly pitched well tonight. Give him a lot of credit for going through the struggles.”

On a team that is desperate for starting pitchers to join ace Aaron Nola, Eflin is eager to become part of the solution. 

“I want to be a part of this team and the future,” he said. “I want to go through the ups and downs with these guys. I want to be here and I want to win a lot of ball games.”

Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

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Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer scored when first baseman Brock Holt threw away Roberto Perez's bunt in the 10th inning, lifting the Cleveland Indians over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Monday night in a matchup of first-place teams.

After Guyer's leadoff double against Brandon Workman (0-1), Holt fielded the bunted ball and tried to throw out Guyer at third. Guyer slid into the bag as the throw skipped past third baseman Rafael Devers, then got to his feet and raced across home plate. Teammates ran onto the field and doused Perez with water and white powder.

Perez also had a three-run homer in the second inning.

Cody Allen (1-6) allowed Christian Vazquez's leadoff single in the 10th, but retired the next three hitters. The inning ended when shortstop Francisco Lindor ran down Mookie Betts' popup in center field with his back to home plate.

Cleveland relief ace Andrew Miller left in the seventh inning after aggravating the patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Miller recently returned after over two weeks on the disabled list with the knee injury (see full recap).  

Albers gives Mariners win over former team
ATLANTA -- Andrew Albers worked into the sixth inning for his second straight win since coming up from the minors, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.

Albers (2-0) also had the first hit and RBI of his career -- in his first big league at-bat.

The 31-year-old left-hander beat his former organization, having spent most of the season at the Braves' Triple-A club. He went 12-3 but never got a call to the big leagues.

Instead, Albers was dealt to the Mariners for cash on Aug. 11. He was called up by Seattle to make a start four days later, working six strong innings in a 3-1 win over Baltimore.

Now, after going just over four years between major league victories, Albers has two wins in less than a week.

Mike Foltynewicz (10-9) has lost four of his last five starts for Atlanta (see full recap).

Pollock’s 2-run blast lifts D-backs over Mets
NEW YORK -- A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped a three-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Monday night.

J.D. Martinez had an RBI single and left fielder David Peralta threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate for the Diamondbacks, who began the day with a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card. They are 4-0 against the Mets this season and have won nine of 10 meetings over the last two years.

Pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco walked to start the 10th. One out later, Pollock sent a 94 mph fastball from Eric Goeddel (0-1) over the center-field fence to put the Diamondbacks back in front after they squandered a 1-0 lead in the seventh.

Fernando Rodney gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Conforto before getting three outs for his 28th save in 33 tries.

Jimmie Sherfy (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for his first major league win (see full recap)

Bruce Bochy on Hector Neris: 'He's an idiot'

Bruce Bochy on Hector Neris: 'He's an idiot'

The Giants don't seem to be too fond of Hector Neris.

The Phillies on Sunday were clinging to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Hector Neris entered the game. The reliever inherited runners on first and second with two outs and Giants All-Star catcher Buster Posey at the plate.

On a first-pitch fastball, Neris plunked Posey, who called out the Phillies' closer afterward.

"I'm pretty certain he hit me on purpose and it's just a shame because I wanted to compete in that at-bat," Posey said. "I guess he didn't feel he could get me out.
 
"It was a big spot. It would have been fun to hit."

In that situation, purposely hitting a batter makes little sense, as it advances the potential game-tying run into scoring position and puts the go-ahead run on base. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged just that, while Neris denied any intention behind the hit by pitch. Despite the bases-loaded jam, Neris struck out Pablo Sandoval to escape before closing out the 5-2 win with a scoreless ninth inning.

Things didn't end there, though.

A day later, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had something to say about Neris.

"It wasn't just a little inside. The same guy … I'll say it, he's an idiot," Bochy said Monday before the Giants' series opener against the Brewers. "He showed it in Philadelphia when he was having words with (Eduardo) Nunez. I think that caused the radar to be up a little bit on what happened there."

The incident with Nunez in which Bochy refers to apparently happened during the Phillies' 9-7 win over the Giants on June 4 at Citizens Bank Park. According to CSNBayArea.com's Alex Pavlovic, Neris appeared to blow a kiss at Nunez after a ninth-inning strikeout. Following a game-ending punchout of Brandon Belt, it looks like Neris glances over at the Giants' dugout before catcher Cameron Rupp stops him.

None of the above explains why Neris would feel any intent to hit Posey in such a tight spot more than 2½ months later.

"You never know for sure, but it certainly didn't look good, did it?" Bochy said.

"It wasn't a glancing blow — it was at his ribs, on the backside of the ribs. So, no, I'm not surprised [Posey was upset]. I would have been upset, too.

"Anyway, that's behind us."

For now. 

While the Phillies and Giants don't play again this season, baseball players sure have great memories.