Zach Eflin said he was quick to forget about his major league debut last Tuesday. The one in which he gave up eight runs in 2⅔ innings pitched against one of the best offenses in the league up in Toronto.
“As soon as the game ended that day, it was already washed out,” Eflin said Sunday. “Like I said, it’s all about preparing yourself for each start and learning from everything.”
While he shed the feeling of disappointment and the bad taste in his mouth that followed his nine-hit, three home run performance, Eflin, 22, went to the video to study what he could do differently his next time out.
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“I was kind of rushing that day,” Eflin said. “And I was just really focusing on getting back in my load and really staying down in the zone, working quick and getting extension.”
Sunday, he showed what he learned. Eflin, in front of the largest non-Opening Day Phillies crowd since 2014, and in front of his dad, Larry, on Father’s Day, was much better in his second start despite his team's 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (see game story).
The righty allowed two runs on four hits over 5⅔ innings. He struck out three to just one intentional walk.
“Even after the game in Toronto, he seemed like he knew what he needed to do,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He's pretty cool, calm and collected. He's not an emotional guy. He knows what he's up against. He knows what he has to do. He shows a lot of poise. Today was important. We had a nice, big crowd. He settled down quite a bit.”
Eflin retired the first six hitters he faced before Brandon Drury led off the third inning with a liner to the right-center field gap. Drury would later score on a sacrifice fly by opposing pitcher Archie Bradley.
The Diamondbacks got to him again in the sixth. Paul Goldschmidt extended his league-leading hitting streak to 13 games with a two-out single. And then Jake Lamb double both drove Goldschmidt in to score for a 2-0 lead and ended Eflin’s day.
First, Mackanin had him intentionally walk Chris Herrmann while David Hernandez readied in the bullpen.
Eflin, acquired from Los Angeles in the Jimmy Rollins trade in 2014, threw 55 strikes on 88 pitches.
“He located his pitches better,” Mackanin said. “He still got away with some pitches he left up in the zone. We need to see him pitch down in the zone a little more. But he's 22 years old and it was a good confidence booster for him.”
Eflin said, obviously, that he wanted to stay in the game.
“Everyone would have,” he said. “But I understand the situation. It was just fun to get out there and throw well.”
“We wanted him out on a positive note,” Mackanin said. “After his first outing, I didn't want him to throw over 100 pitches and maybe get burnt the next inning or that inning. He's 22 years old. We wanted him to come out of that game with a positive feeling for his next outing.”
That next outing will come Friday, opening a three-game set at beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco. It will be another crowd of 40,000, most likely.
“Just getting out there with the ball in your hand and 40,000 in the stands is pretty cool,” Eflin said of the home crowd Sunday.
How long Eflin remains in the team’s rotation depends, probably, on how long Vince Velasquez stays on the disabled list with his biceps strain.
But the Phillies will get at least another look or two at the 6-foot-6 pitching prospect, who is certainly enjoying his first taste of baseball’s highest level. And already learning from past mistakes.
“It was cool to go out there and kind of show the other team what I got and it paid off,” Eflin said.
“(I) go out there every outing kind of wanting to dominate the game. It’s just fun to go out there and throw in front of 40,000, like I told you. Gotta go out there with a clear mind and learn from every outing.”