Eflin enjoying pitching behind 'deadly' lineup

May 5th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are not a perfect baseball team, but they have a powerful offense that should keep them in contention in the National League East this season.

It is a comforting feeling.

“We’re never really out of a ballgame,” Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp said after Sunday afternoon’s 7-1 victory over the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. “That helps a lot. We can give up one or two, and in years past, maybe feel like we were behind the eight ball a little bit. But now, we’ve just got to wait it out and trust that our offense is going to do what it’s going to do. We can do what we did today in the sixth inning -- we can do that every day.”

The Phillies had struck out 11 times in 5 1/3 innings before Knapp singled to left field in that decisive sixth frame. It sparked a five-run rally to help the Phillies finish a nine-game homestand at 6-3. Yes, it could have been better. They blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning in Saturday’s 10-8 loss, but the Phillies are 19-14 and on pace to win 93 games.

The Phillies are averaging 5.21 runs per game, too. They have not had an offense score like this since they averaged 5.51 runs in 2007.

These Phillies share similarities to those Phillies. They are never out of a game. A big inning is always a possibility.

“You look at our lineup, it’s deadly,” Phillies right-hander  said. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to pitch behind that.”

The Phillies from 2003-10 had a top-10 offense as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard entered their primes. They failed to make the postseason from '03-06, though they would have been the second NL Wild Card in '05-06 had it existed at the time. They won the NL East each season from '07-11.

 followed Knapp’s one-out single in the sixth with a flare to right to put runners on the corners. The Phillies called for a safety squeeze from the dugout. Eflin dropped a perfect bunt up the first-base line, allowing Knapp to score to hand the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

“It’s been a really long time at the plate not being able to even sniff a baseball with my swing,” said Eflin, who entered the game batting a combined .091 (5-for-55) with 39 strikeouts over the past two seasons. “To be able to actually make contact with a baseball, bunting was really, really fun. A lot of the guys said I started running before I bunted. I didn’t know that. I turned around and realized I got an RBI. I had no idea Knappy just went home on that. I was really just trying to make contact and it was a nice little sand wedge -- backspin, down the right side.”

 then walked to load the bases. 's fielder’s choice scored Franco to make it 4-1.  followed with an RBI single and  added a two-run double to give the Phillies a six-run lead.

“We’ve just got to hang around and hang around,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Ultimately, we always have the ability to have a big inning. We have guys that can string hits together. We have guys that can walk. We have guys that can beat out double play balls like Segura did that keeps an inning alive.”

Eflin allowed one run in seven innings. He has allowed two runs in 16 innings in his last two starts. The Phillies’ rotation has a 3.01 ERA (34 earned runs in 101 1/3 innings) over the last 17 games. The offense is scoring. The rotation is keeping pace. If the bullpen can find some consistency, the team could get on a roll.

“I think we’ve let a couple of games go, but we haven’t played our best baseball yet,” Knapp said. “It’s encouraging.”