TORONTO — Zach Eflin had the start that he wanted, striking out two of the first three hitters he faced on Tuesday afternoon. However, it unraveled quickly from there and, as a result, his major-league debut lasted just 2 2/3 innings.
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Eflin threw 77 pitches, 48 for strikes. The eight earned allowed by Eflin are the most allowed by a Phillies pitcher in his major-league debut since Russ Miller in 1927.
“This was his debut and I suppose he was a little nervous, he just made a lot of bad pitches. He normally locates a lot better than he did. He was just up in the zone with all of his pitches and he got hit,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. “Sorry to see his debut turn out that way, but this is a good lineup and you can’t make mistakes to them.”
Despite the rough outing, Eflin was in good spirits postgame.
“Oh it was awesome,” Eflin said of the experience. “I was obviously leaving some pitches up and big-league hitters are going to capitalize on that, but I was out there in front of 50,000 people playing the game that I love. Just got to bounce back and work on it. I had the time of my life.”
Eflin struck out Jose Bautista to lead off the first. Then after Josh Donaldson doubled to right, he got Edwin Encarnacion swinging. But with two out, he walked Michael Saunders, then Russell Martin came through with an RBI single.
The right-hander needed 25 pitches to get out of the first inning.
“I just started leaving stuff up, the nerves were getting there and everything,” Eflin said of what happened following the Encarnacion strikeout.
Then in the second, Kevin Pillar led off with a home run, taking Eflin’s 2-1 fastball over the wall in left. After getting the next two outs in order, Bautista reached on an error by Andres Blanco at third and Donaldson cashed in with an RBI double.
“After he got out of that first [inning], I think you could tell nerves settled down and then he missed his spot,” catcher Cameron Rupp said. “The pitch to Pillar wasn’t necessarily that bad of a pitch, it was up and in, but he hit it where you can’t catch it. That’s one of those things where you just build off, he’s going to get better and he’ll be all right.”
Things went sideways for Eflin in the third. After issuing a one-out walk to Martin, former Phils outfielder Ezequiel Carrera took Eflin’s first pitch deep for a two-run home run. Following back-to-back singles to Pillar and Devon Travis, Bautista walked to load the bases for Donaldson who hit his third career grand slam.
Encarnacion followed it up with a ground rule double before Mackanin finally called for the bullpen and Brett Oberholtzer.
“The hard part is, this is the kid’s major-league debut, but at the same time, I don’t want to decimate the bullpen and we’re trying to get every ounce of an inning, even part of an inning, that we could,” Mackanin said of leaving Eflin in for the Donaldson at-bat. “But that’s the unfortunate part about that. He’s got to give us a little bit more than that, otherwise you decimate the bullpen.”
Eflin is expected to get his second career start on Sunday against the D-backs.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Orlando, Florida, native said his debut was a good learning experience.
“Keep the ball down. Just having good composure out there on the mound and really not letting in on anything, really just dominating the bottom half of the strike zone,” he said. “Really make sure I limit my pitches up in the zone, really make sure that I focus on every pitch and work down in the zone and I just really don’t give them anything to hit and go from there.”
Phils third baseman Maikel Franco missed his second consecutive game because of a mild right knee sprain suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Nationals. According to Mackanin, Franco, who was seen limping in the clubhouse, could be an option on Wednesday.
“He said he’s still a little sore today so I wasn’t going to use him, but he said he might be OK [Wednesday],” Mackanin said.