Eflin settles down, but 'pen loses late lead

May 22nd, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Phillies' bullpen has been in constant flux over the past few weeks with a litany of injuries to several key members. Add in a high-usage rate for said relief corps and as the Phils learned in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, trouble is likely to follow.

Due to heavy workloads over the past several games, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler’s top four options in the bullpen -- , , and -- were all unavailable with the team holding onto a late 2-1 lead.

The quartet of relievers came into Tuesday having thrown 12 1/3 innings in the last five games.

“We were strict in wanting to give those guys a blow,” Kapler said. “They’ve all been working really hard, both in the 'pen and getting up and also getting into games consistently.”

Kapler was left with a bullpen without a full assortment of options, but his plan of attack with those who were available worked to perfection up to that point.

Relievers and Jose Alvarez combined for two scoreless frames after ’s six innings of one-run ball.

came into the game in the ninth holding a one-run lead and facing the heart of Chicago's order.

“We had a lot of confidence in Nicasio," Kapler said. "We had been asking a lot of him, but the way he’s been throwing the ball, we felt confident he could get the job done. It’s a tough part of the lineup to go through for any pitcher.”

It was Nicasio’s third appearance in as many days, and it showed at an inopportune time, as he walked to begin the ninth. followed with a double to put the winning run on second.

After a flyout and an intentional walk to load the bases, sent a squibber to the right of the mound. While Nicasio pounced on the play quickly, Bryant was going on contact and beat Nicasio's flip to the plate, tying the game at 2.

“It wasn’t going foul, swinging bunt, it looked like it just stuck,” first baseman said. “KB’s got some good speed over there.”

, who had been recovering from a right ankle injury, followed to deliver the final blow, lining a first-pitch slider into right field for the walk-off single.

It was the second night in a row Philadelphia's bullpen had surrendered the lead late, with Dominguez allowing the tying runs in Monday's game.

The bullpen’s usage and health have become a concern with , and all out for the foreseeable future and just one off-day in the next two weeks. It’s not an issue the team can afford to have.

“I think I’ve been pretty consistent with the approach of aggressively going after wins when we can lock ‘em down,” Kapler said. "I think you always want to balance winning tonight’s baseball game with winning a series and winning the long game.”

Eflin continues to be effective despite slip in control

Eflin pitched very well in the no-decision despite having an uncharacteristically wild first inning.

The right-hander came into the game with a walk rate of just 4 percent, third lowest in the Majors. He issued three free passes in the first.

“I just kind of felt off-balance,” Eflin said of his first-inning control. “Mechanics were a little off in the first. But it was more of getting adjusted and challenging myself to go after guys.”

Eflin quickly shook off the command issues and kept the Phillies in the game by throwing six strong innings to continue his impressive start to 2019. He finished with a season-high four walks and struck out a season-low-tying two batters. It marked his sixth quality start of '19.

Eflin threw a season-high 51 sliders, according to Statcast, and it was the seventh-most sliders thrown by a starting pitcher this season.

“Going into the game, we knew sliders were effective to certain guys. Once you get a sign on the hill, when you like it, you’re gonna throw it,” Eflin said. “Threw a lot of good ones. Threw some bad ones, but was able to stay in the game and follow [J.T. Realmuto's] lead.”