PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins spent the early part of his evening ringing the bell and bringing luck to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.Rollins finished his night across the street in a suite at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, watching the Phillies rout the Giants, 11-0. The greatest shortstop in
PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins spent the early part of his evening ringing the bell and bringing luck to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
Rollins finished his night across the street in a suite at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, watching the Phillies rout the Giants, 11-0. The greatest shortstop in franchise history might have caught a pitch or two from Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin, who struck out a career-high nine batters in 6 2/3 innings in one of the best starts of his career. The Phillies acquired Eflin from the Dodgers for Rollins in Dec. 2015.
"It was amazing to be able to attach my name with Jimmy Rollins," Eflin said afterward. "I think any baseball player would work as hard as he could to prove that the deal was [a good one]. I'm going to continue to work my butt off and be healthy and ready every fifth day."
Eflin is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA. He has struck out 13 and walked three in 12 2/3 innings. He has been aggressive with an impressive four-seam fastball, which he is throwing about 94.5 mph after averaging 93.1 mph the previous two seasons. Eflin could attack throughout the night, especially with the Phillies hitting four home runs. Odubel Herrera hit two. Carlos Santana and Cesar Hernandez each hit one.
Eflin, 24, has pitched well in two starts since replacing Ben Lively in the Phillies' rotation, which is a notable development for a team that is looking for consistent starting pitching beyond Aaron Nola and Jacob Arrieta. Nola and Arrieta are a combined 7-2 with a 2.59 ERA. The other Phils starters entered the night 3-8 with a 5.20 ERA.
"I just seem to have such better life with it," Eflin said of his fastball. "Now that I'm using my legs, I'm really getting extension. I'm on the third-base side of the rubber, too, which makes it play up a little more."
"His stride length is really good, the ball is probably getting on the hitter better than it has in the past," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "And he's also stayed on the [velocity]. In the past I think we've seen a bigger spread between his slowest fastball and his most explosive fastball. Maybe that spread was something like 88-97 and now we're seeing the bottoms be 92, 91. And there's probably more of those 95, 96. I think that matters."
Eflin got 14 swings and misses, tying a career high. Six of those swings and misses came on the four-seamer. That is notable, as the Phillies have always wondered if Eflin could miss enough bats to stick in the big leagues.
In fact, Kapler pondered that question just last week in Miami.
Eflin seems to be showing that he indeed does belong in the Majors.
"I think there's times I can do both," Eflin said. "I don't think there was ever a time that I have to blow people away or I have to pitch to contact. It's good to have both of them. What I'm starting to learn is when to do that sequence of pitches, when to throw my hard four-seam or my slower two-seam. It's fun starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together."
It is just two starts, but Eflin's performances make folks wonder if he can keep it up, can he stick around for a while?
"I know the situation," Eflin said. "I know what's going on. As of right now, I pitched today, I'll see in five days. I'm going to do whatever the team asks me to do."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Santana might have been the unluckiest hitter in baseball in April, striking more hard-hit outs (29) than anybody. But Santana caught a break in the fifth inning when he smashed a three-run home run to center field. Giants center fielder Gorkys Hernandez almost made a leaping catch, but after his body slammed into the wall the ball popped out of his glove and fell over the fence. Confusion ensued. Santana and Maikel Franco stopped running on the basepaths, not knowing if the ball had been caught. Finally, they figured out it was a homer, Santana's fourth of the season.
"It's a long season like everyone knows," Santana said. "The first month wasn't too positive but I'll be fine and everything will change. I have a new approach and I'm getting to have more hard contact like I've been doing. We have four and a half months left to play. It's a long season and I'll try to finish strong."
Herrera's three-run homer in the first inning extended his on-base streak to 36 games. It is the Phillies' longest such stretch since Rollins reached base safely in 38 consecutive games in 2015-16. Herrera also has reached base safely in 31 consecutive games to start the season. It is the longest streak in baseball to start a season since Matthew Holliday (45 games) in 2015.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Phillies rookie Jesmuel Valentin singled to right field in the second inning for the first hit of his big league career. He hit a 1-2 slider off Reyes Moronta.
HE SAID IT
"That's my personality. It is a moment I have been waiting for. It is something I have been getting ready for mentally and physically. I just took it as, 'Well this is my time. Now I have to show them that I'm ready.'" -- Phillies rookie Seranthony Dominguez, who struck out Evan Longoria in his big league debut in the eighth inning
Nola (4-1, 2.17 ERA) faces Giants left-hander Derek Holland (1-3, 5.70 ERA) on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Nola has one of the best curveballs in baseball, but his changeup has been arguably his best pitch in his past two starts. He threw his change a career-high 30 times Tuesday in Miami, inducing a career-high 11 swings and misses on the pitch. Nola's changeup never got more than seven swings and misses in any previous start.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.