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Eflin's gem keeps Phils’ Wild Card hopes afloat

Righty: 'I don't think there's anything we can't do in this clubhouse'
@ToddZolecki
September 18, 2019

ATLANTA -- The Phillies are conducting exit interviews this week at SunTrust Park. They will continue through the end of the season. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said each meeting, which includes general manager Matt Klentak and a player, starts with a reminder about “how close we are to doing something

ATLANTA -- The Phillies are conducting exit interviews this week at SunTrust Park. They will continue through the end of the season.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said each meeting, which includes general manager Matt Klentak and a player, starts with a reminder about “how close we are to doing something special.” Kapler said they reference the 2007 Phillies’ historic comeback to win the National League East and the 2004 Red Sox dramatic comeback from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. They are using those stories “as inspiration for what could happen.”

Box score

Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin kept the Phillies’ faint postseason hopes alive Wednesday night with an inspired performance in a 4-1 victory over the Braves. The Phillies moved within three games of the Cubs and Brewers for the second NL Wild Card with 12 games to play.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do in this clubhouse,” Eflin said about needing an 8-2 or 9-1 run to have a shot at the postseason.

Eflin allowed five hits and one unearned run in seven innings, which is an amazing accomplishment for a couple of reasons. First, the Phillies committed three errors in Eflin’s first six batters faced, but he kept his cool. Second, the Braves have pounded Eflin this season. He was 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA in three previous starts this season against them.

“That was the toughest from a mental standpoint start from a pitcher that we've gotten all season long,” Kapler said. “Quite simply, we didn't make plays behind him early on. He continued to get ground ball after ground ball. Calls were not going his way. And that was true when he was at that plate, as well. He just kind of had a resiliency about him throughout this game. He wasn't going to get beat mentally. He just continued to induce ground ball after ground ball. Weak contact throughout the game. That was why we won that game.

“The last part of it that makes that especially mentally tough is the fact that he just faced the Braves. It's an incredibly tough lineup to go through several times, but even more so that he's coming off a start against them.”

Eflin is 2-1 with a 2.23 ERA in six starts since rejoining the rotation and recommitting himself to throwing more sinkers. He threw 57 sinkers out of 99 total pitches. He got 12 outs on ground balls.

“At the end of the day, I’m going out and attacking guys and if it’s my sinker that day that’s working, I’m going to use my sinker. If it’s my changeup, I’m going to use my changeup,” Eflin said. “We figure out what we have going early in the bullpen before the game. Today was the sinker. It’s been working these last couple outings so if it’s there next outing you’ll probably see it again.”

Bryce Harper hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning against Julio Teheran to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. César Hernández homered to start the sixth to make it 3-1.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .