Why is “Return of the Mack” Eflin’s theme? Why am I using last night’s impressive 6-1 win over the Chicago Cubs as means for celebration? Well, if you had been watching the horseshit Giants series, you’d remember that the Phillies were in need of a spark. Zach Eflin had struggled to get through the fifth inning in his previous three starts and pitched outstanding as he reached the eighth inning. Let’s retitle the song “Return of the Zach” for purposes of this blog post.
Zach Eflin’s 7.2 innings pitched weren’t completely straightforward enough for him to just throw until he got tired, he saw trouble a few times and responded gloriously. Eflin saw Ben Zobrist get to third base in the bottom of the third when Jason Heyward dropped a bloop single in between the hesitant Phillies defenders. Kris Bryant stepped up with an opportunity to chip away at the Phillies’ 5-0 lead and how does Eflin respond? He strikes Bryant out.
Again in the fourth inning, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber singled and doubled, respectively to find the Cubbies with runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out. Eflin doesn’t even panic and strikes out Javy Baez with a powered up-and-in fastball for out number two. Eflin would force Albert Almora to ground out to end the inning. Back-to-back innings of pitching clutch.
Eflin would cruise into the eighth inning and quickly got the first two outs. However, the third time through the heart of the Cubs’ lineup would be Eflin’s undoing. Kris Bryant singled and was quickly driven in by a monster double from Anthony Rizzo. Edubray Ramos came in to finish off the eighth and start the ninth. After Ramos walked the ninth’s leadoff hitter, Seranthony Dominguez took over and worked his magic. His flamethrowing pitches retired each of the three Cubs he faced.
Offensively, the Phillies actually manufactured runs! Nick Williams hit a two-run bomb in the second inning to start things off, seemingly the only ball not affected by the cold weather at Wrigley. The third inning was when things started cooking for the Phils. Cesar Hernandez led off with a single, Odubel Herrera walked, and in stood Scott Kingery. Kingery caught the Cubs defense completely off guard with a FANTASTIC bunt for a base hit and the Phils loaded up the bags. First, Carlos Santana’s golden eye walked in a run. Next, Aaron Altherr drove a ball to right center sac-flying in Herrera and moving “Scotty Jetpacks” Kingery to third. Finally, Nick Williams grounded one to shortstop but used his speed to prevent the double-play, scoring Kingery.
Cubs’ SP Kyle Hendricks would regain his best stuff from there, retiring seven-straight but the Phillies jumping on a pitcher when he doesn’t have it going is exactly what they’ve needed to be doing. The aggressive baserunning helped to pressure the defense and constructing this speedy lineup was fun to watch. Good for Gabe Kapler to think to shake things up to help the offense regain some of its confidence.
Game two of this three-game set is tonight at 8:05 and it is a Nola Night. Aaron Nola (7-2) takes on Jose Quintana (6-4) in the marquee pitching matchup of the series.
- I mentioned the weather affecting ball flights. There were a few fly balls for both teams that could have gone out on a warmer, less windy night. Most notably was Scott Kingery’s shot to deep left-center in the 7th. It was deep enough to move both Cesar Hernandez from 2nd to 3rd and Odubel Herrera from 1st to 2nd. Speedy lineup coming in handy again.
- Nick Williams didn’t just have a great night at the plate picking up 3 RBIs. He looked tremendous in left field making a number of outstanding, extra-base hit-saving plays. With Rhys available to return on Saturday, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Williams/Altherr platooning will be affected. Williams has been better, no question, but Altherr keeps getting the nod ahead of him in the batting order. Altherr has the potential to be better but you need to ride the much hotter hand of Williams.
- Zach Eflin’s next start is scheduled for Sunday at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. With the amount of confidence Eflin surely gained tonight, that should be a very fun matchup of pitcher vs white-hot lineup.
- Jake Arrieta was honored by the Cubs during the game. Despite not pitching in this series, he was in contact with his former teammates most notably Anthony Rizzo:
What a nice guy Arrieta is. Just trying to help his former team by not mowing them down. Let’s see Nola do it instead Wednesday and Pivetta wrap it up Thursday afternoon.Follow @geordo9